July 1st, 2011
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I write today about a special woman named Julie Potter who played a pivotal role in putting me and many others on the path to resilience.

Today is Julie’s last day at Sibley Hospital and I know that she will be missed quite a lot; especially by me!!!!!  True to her nature, Julie always downplays her valuable contributions and the vast resources she has set up at Sibley to help others.

Besides her primary responsibilities at Sibley’s Senior Services department, Julie also oversees the Widowed Persons Outreach (WPO) bereavement group.  For 21 years, Julie has reached out to help people who find themselves vulnerable during trying times and she has generously given them emotional support and strength so that they may find their way back to more solid footing.  She is calm, gentle and patient but she is also honest and funloving.  Julie has a sixth sense for what people need and if they can’t find the right connections then she helps them until they do.

Sibley had no support groups when Julie began working there.  Julie started the hospital’s first support group, a cancer support group, and that led to the start of many other groups: arthritis, alzheimer’s, bereavement, diabetes, parkinson’s and movement disorders.  And if that wasn’t enough, she also started the hospital’s Walking Club in 1992.

I remember the first time I spoke to her on the phone because I was pretty much a basket case.  I had received a pamphlet in the mail about a bereavement group at Sibley Hospital that met twice a month and Julie was the contact person.  I wasn’t ready yet to talk in a group but still I thought it would be a good idea to talk to her for guidance and also to see if I could talk to someone in the bereavement group on a one-to-one basis.  I called and left a voice message for her.

My husband had died about nine months earlier and I had just come back from vacation with my young son.  We weren’t vacationing alone; we were with friends. But it had been jarring to spend vacation time without my husband.  Everything about the beach was almost the same as it had been from the year before except my husband had died.  It became a big deal to me as I realized pretty quickly into the vacation that I needed to talk to someone about all the grief feelings that I was experiencing.

Every day during vacation I would tamp down all the feelings of contradiction.  No one I knew could really understand what it was all about.  I would walk up to the beach early every morning and sit in the sand and cry and then walk back to the house as though everything was okay because I didn’t want my son to see me falling apart while we were on vacation.  Needless to say, it was not a good time for me.

When Julie called me back, she said she knew of a woman in the bereavement group who was widowed many years ago and had since remarried.  The woman who Julie sent my way helped me tremendously and I will always be grateful for her sensitivity and empathy.  She was truly an incredible gift sent from heaven.  She listened to me and also shared her own stories about being a wife and mother and suddenly becoming a widow.  She told me how she met her current husband and how life would get better.  She gave me hope.  And so did Julie.

Thank you Julie Potter from the bottom of my heart for taking care of me and all the other people seeking understanding and support after losing a loved one!!!!!  Best wishes in your continued volunteer work with WPO and all other endeavors you decide to follow.

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