Marion native returning to lead grief workshop

When Donna Hanschu-Bissell, a former Marion resident, talks about the pain of grief, she knows what she’s talking about.

Three decades ago, her worst fear became reality when her 2-year-old son, Barrett, was suddenly stricken with meningococcal meningitis, a rare form of meningitis.

One night in the hospital she was holding him close, with tubes attached, rocking him in her arms while the high-powered antibiotics fought the infection. The next day he was dead.

Nine months later, her husband, Chris, was late in getting home from playing golf. As fear began to wind its way into her heart, a trooper at the front door informed Bissell her husband had been in a car accident.

A week later he died.

Fifteen months after burying her son, nine months after burying her husband, Bissell buried a 3-month-old son who had been born with a rare genetic syndrome.

After 30 years of experience in grief counseling, Bissell is returning to Kansas to present a workshop titled, “Balancing Life and Loss.”

“This is the first time I have been back to do a workshop in Marion County,” said the author, teacher and grief counselor who has conducted workshops throughout the country.

The daughter of Lawrence and LaVerna Hanschu, she grew up close to Marion Reservoir “before it was a reservoir” and graduated from Marion High School.

“It is part of a dream I have had, to come back and someday establish a mini group center on the farmland I know,” she said, “This is the time to tweak some interest.”

Reality Works is her method of sharing with people practical ways of working through grief over significant losses in their lives.

“She said people often don’t know how to handle other people’s grief. The workshop is designed to help individuals on both sides of the grieving experience.

She said more women attend her workshops, but men opened up more readily in a Child Loss Workshop she recently conducted in Long Island.

“Sometimes the men need permission to open up, and we try to offer it to them,” she said. “The workshop is for everyone.”

Bissell said people have told her they would not attend her seminars just to “end up in a puddle of tears.”

She said they will only go as far as their comfort zone will allow. Some individuals who have attended have said nothing, but in leaving the workshop thanked Bissell for the things they had learned.

“All of my feedback after a workshop,” she said, “is that they came away with hope. And that’s what we want to offer.

“I will share examples of poetry and art and other ways of opening up and expressing the pain. The key is to find your own unique expression.”

Bissell’s workshop will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, at the Country Dreams Bed and Breakfast near Marion.

The cost is $30 per person which includes the day workshop and lunch.

For more information, or to pre-register call 316-382-2250 or 1-800-570-0540.

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