WHO WE ARE
The Founding Members and Evolution of WYPS
Joel was widowed in 1985. His wife, Laura, was 34 when she died of cancer after a lengthy illness.
As a widower, Joel was surprised at the large number of younger widowed people who were referred to him as "someone to talk to" by his friends, clients and acquaintances. He recognized the need for a group that would be responsive to the needs of people widowed young.
In 1991, a local magazine featured Joel in an article in which he mentioned his desire to start a support group. As a result of that article, Joel received correspondence from across the country. A month later, a meeting was held to create and publicize WYPS in Seattle. A month after that, the first WYPS meeting was held and 7 widowed people attended. The following month was November and 40 people attended that meeting. The group has been meeting regularly ever since.
Joel is an attorney and business owner in Seattle.
Katie was widowed in 1986, when her husband, Walt, died of a heart attack while they were vacationing in San Francisco.
Over the next few months, Katie attempted to find an outlet for her grief. She knew she needed to talk about her experience with others who shared her grief but there was nothing available. The only support group for widowed people were for older people who had little in common with her experiences.
In August of 1991, Katie read an article about Joel Junker and his vision for a support group for young widowed persons. They got together and began what was to become WYPS, Widowed Young Personís Support.
Katie is a hypnotherapist and owns the Lighten Up! Weight Loss Program with offices in Seattle, Phoenix and Baltimore.
Kath was widowed in 1989 when her husband Rick died of pneumonia after a short illness. At that time, she had 2 children, Ricky, 3, and Barbara, 5. They were living in Oakland California. In 1991, Kath relocated to Seattle. Shortly thereafter, she became a bereavement and hospice counselor. She met Katie and Joel through Ginny Tesik who was consulting with them to start WYPS.
Kath was the primary facilitator when the group began. She currently leads a Transition Group and a Relationship Group.  Kath is also executive director of the healing center.
Kath has a Masters Degree in Special Education and is a registered counselor in Washington. She currently is in private practice in Seattle specializing in loss issues and is a part-time coordinator for Group Health Hospice.
The weekly group is now being led by Beverly Bridge, a psychotherapist who was widowed in 1992. Her husband Jack died of stomach cancer at the age of 44, after a short illness. At that time their children were just turning 7 and 10. Beverly had only lived in Seattle for a year when he died and found the group to be a wonderful place for support and healing. She has been leading the group for the past 4 1/2 years, after spending several years answering calls on the phone site.
Evolution of WYPS
In September, 1991, the core group of founders held our first meeting to plan starting a group for younger widowed men and women. We discussed finding a facility, publicity, ground rules and guidelines for the meetings, group leaders and security and confidentiality.
Shortly after that first meeting, we met with bereavement counselors for professional guidance. Their advice was that we create ground rules and lead the groups ourselves. They thought the group would be more effective with widowed people instead of professionals facilitating. A benefit was that Kath, Katie and Beverly are counselors.
It was recommended that we have at least 2 facilitators present for each meeting initially which we did. We also had professionals who would consult with us as we needed.
It was determined at the outset that the meetings would be held in a "neutral" space and not in anyoneís home or apartment. This was done to ensure safety. As it turned out, it was a very wise move as over the years occasionally an unstable person would participate and unpleasant situations have been avoided.
At this time we decided to meet twice a month, on the 1st and 3rd Our meeting space was a large common room in Katieís condominium building. Over the years we met in a church hall, another group memberís common room and finally in a conference room in a health care administration building where we still meet. There is no charge for the meeting facility.
In 1992, Kath began a Relationship Group. This is for those who are ready to move into a new phase of their lives and begin looking at creating a new "significant other" relationship.
Since the beginning of WYPS, we have always held group meetings more frequently during the holidays to meet the increased needs of the members.
Beginning in December, 1994 the group began meeting once a week and still is. Attendance generally ranges from 8-12 people.
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