SPRINGFIELD, MO. - It might be easy to forget how to take care of yourself or have fun when dealing with the loss of a loved one. But one local funeral home is reminding people how important that is, by helping them through the grieving process with some unlikely friends.
When you think of a reptile or a bird, you might not think those animals can help you through a hard time. But it turns out, that's what they're doing right here in Springfield. Klingner-Cope Funeral Home partnered with the Dickerson Park Zoo to bring joy to people's lives as they go trough their healing journey.
"It was really startling how the response was going to be from the people that are there? All experiencing grief, in different places in their grief. And the response was just fantastic because the distraction was peaceful and rejuvenating and fun," said Jenene Dean, community outreach coordinator at Klingner-Cope.
When Dean was organizing the Healing Path workshops, she couldn't schedule therapy dogs like she initially planned. So, she decided to bring in zoo animals, to help grieving families.
"If you get out in the environment and experience nature, then it has a healing effect," said Pam Price, the conservation education director at Dickerson Park Zoo.
For the first workshop, price took a hawk.
"It was the very first program that bird had actually done. So, they felt special that they were the first group that had actually seen the bird," she said.
For another visit, participants saw a bald eagle.
"The bald eagle brought some people to tears," Price said.
But those were tears of joy. Dean says the program is designed to lift people up.
"It's not going to be a sit-down, everyone grab your tissue and everyone will start grieving and crying," said Dean.
It's meant to remind people of things they might push to the side.
"You forget to do certain things for yourself, take care of yourself and your home, to have joy, to allow yourself to have joy," Dean said.
Among the animals participants learned about, were the cockatoo Professor Elliot, a bearded dragon and a possum.
What they learn, participants can take outside of the workshops.
"They develop friendships," said Dean.
"It also teaches them some things that they can go out in nature and observe," Price said.
The next Healing Path Workshop series starts on Oct. 3 and include other topics as well, like a culinary and personal safety class.
The workshops are every Monday at OTC, and are free and open to anyone, whether they've used Klingner-Cope or not.
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