The CourAGE to Care
Do You Have The CourAGE to Care?
The department of gerontology launched an outreach campaign to attract new and returning students to pursue an education in aging. The campaign entitled, The CourAGE to Care, will feature students, alumni and community agencies where our graduates are now working. We want others to see what we see – The CourAGE to Care in action! We look forward to sharing student and alumni stories with you.
Many people have life experiences that draw them into their field of work. A life experience led me to the field of Gerontology. My search to find some answers to loss and grief started for me shortly after I found myself widowed at a young age with two small children.
My husband Captain Martin W. Gronborg Jr was a genuine caring individual who loved his country and flew helicopters… his passion. He was killed on September 4, 1971 in Vietnam and with him my life as I knew it also ended. We had two beautiful daughters, ages 3 and 2. The journey began on how to survive; care for my family; and find a way to always have Marty as a significant piece of my life tapestry while moving forward?
I was by training a computer programmer who had not worked in the field for years and who was a fulltime military wife and mother. There were many emotions to handle and tasks to do to figure this all out. How would I find a job having been out of the field for years? How would the children cope? Marty had been home for a visit just three months earlier and the girls were so happy to see him... how could all of this be explained? There was no real explanation for war...
I was blessed in my journey by a man named Fr. Jim Hoff who directed me to learn more about hospice and working with other grieving families. It took me 7 years to read, talk to others, argue why the books (few as there were) did not talk about the aspects of grief that I knew my children... other families and myself were experiencing. No theory by Freud... no formal diagnosis ... nothing could describe what I saw happening around me until being able to meet Dr. (Dame) Cicely Saunders and participate in workshops with Dr. Kubler Ross. The pieces were coming together and in 1978, I became the coordinator of the first hospice program in Omaha Nebraska at Montclair Nursing Home. Most individuals were older and working with cancer patients and their families drew me to the field of Gerontology for some answers.
In 1980 I graduated from UNO with a Masters in Social Work and a Master’s specialty in Gerontology. Dr. James Thorson who was at the time Director of the Gerontology Program at UNO wanted to teach a course in regard to Hospice and asked if I would be open to teach the course. In 1980 the first class was offered under the heading of “Issues in Aging”: Hospice: Care of the Dying. Today the Gerontology Department still offers a Hospice Course that is available to all students. I still teach a graduate course in Gerontology: Dying, Death and Bereavement.
Since 1980, many expansions in academic offerings have taken place in the Gerontology Department and much has changed in the field of gerontology. With these changes, the need to academically prepare students to work in the field of dying, death, and bereavement has become even more significant.
The journey continues for all of us by the work we are drawn to do. Most of my students shared that they are drawn to this area of working with hurting people in some manner. I tell them that they will find their lives blessed in many ways...Many who are already touching so many individuals and families by their present work.
Thank you for all that you do for others and thank you for letting me share "my story" and journey.
Judy will be taching Death, Dying, and Grieving in the Spring 2018, GERO 8730. We hope you will sign-up for her course!
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