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Finding Love in Grief: A Tale of Two Lesbians in a LGBTQIA+ Bereavement Group

For privacy Andrea & Sherry will be represented using their Wedding Toppers. Credit to Scrambledpegs on Etsy.com
For privacy Andrea & Sherry will be represented using their Wedding Toppers. Credit to Scrambledpegs on Etsy.com

In the midst of profound loss, two women found solace and love in an unexpected place—an online bereavement group hosted by Fenway Health’s LGBTQIA+ Aging Project. Sherry, 72, and Andrea, 55, each having lost their wives and struggling with their own sorrow, found that this group provided not only a safe space to grieve but also a unique opportunity to connect, heal, and find hope in life once more. The two are now looking forward to celebrating Pride Month by marrying each other. 

The Meeting 

The  LGBTQIA+ Aging Project’s bereavement groups are for LGBTQIA+ adults of all ages who have lost someone important in their lives. This free eight-week program meets virtually and is facilitated by a social worker with expertise in both bereavement and the LGBTQIA+ community. This safe haven, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, became a pivotal point for both Sherry and Andrea. 

After 17 and a half years of marriage, Andrea had to make the heartbreaking decision to remove life support from her wife after a catastrophic medical event. They had promised each other to dedicate a year to truly working through their grief if one of them passed. Now alone, Andrea sought out a supportive community and joined an online widow group on Facebook. Unfortunately, the experience was marred by harassment and broken boundaries. Desperate for a safer space, Andrea googled ” lgbtq bereavement group run by a therapist ” and found Fenway Health. “It felt like home,” she said. “I felt safe even after being traumatized from my first experience on the Facebook group.” 

Sherry’s journey began when her partner and wife of 40 years entered hospice after a long battle with dementia. After her wife died, a hospice worker informed her about Fenway Health’s LGBTQIA+ bereavement support groups. Sherry understood the importance of finding support for her grief, having lost her mother early in life. She spoke with Lisa Krinsky, Director of the LGBTQIA+ Aging Project, to learn more about these bereavement groups specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community. “When I logged into the first meeting, I felt like these are my people,” Sherry recalled. 

Sherry and Andrea’s initial meetings did not spark an immediate connection. Sherry, eager to help and share, often played the role of a supportive leader, while Andrea, a few months ahead in her grieving process, remained reserved. Andrea’s primary focus was relearning how to live alone, grappling with loneliness, and even simple tasks like cooking for herself. Sherry described Andrea as sad, but in a grieving group, they all were.  

Building Connections 

Neither Sherry nor Andrea entered the group looking for love; they simply wanted to connect with others who had also lost their spouse or partner. Both shared the mindset that “the only way to deal with sadness and grief is through, not around.” Sherry often said, “People usually don’t do the work or deal with deep sad emotions. The group was a huge help to make connections, but you need to do the extra healing in the real world as well.” 

In one of the bereavement group sessions the group facilitator Mitra Tummino LICSW, encouraged members to share stories, photos, and art, creating a space for everyone to honor their loved ones. Sherry shared a song she wrote in memory of her wife and a picture of their wedding day. Andrea appreciated Sherry’s loving gaze toward her wife and wondered if she’d ever experience that again. 

As the eight weeks flew by, Andrea felt the program was too short. “Only eight weeks of meeting once a week was not enough, at least give me 12,” she said. Sherry, feeling the same, offered to continue hosting informal meetings. By the third week, only Andrea remained. Their one-on-one Zoom calls deepened their bond, evolving from friendship into something more profound. 

Unexpected Love 

Their friendship slowly shifted to romance. Andrea invited Sherry over to her place, and for Andrea, it was love at first hug. “She reached in and put a string of lights around my heart,” Andrea reminisced. “I just knew we were going to be together.” 

For Sherry, it was a slower realization. “It was the small things at first, like her messaging me in the morning asking how I slept and, in the afternoon, asking what I ate. I didn’t realize how much I missed those small, meaningful acts of someone caring about my day,” Sherry explained. 

Their relationship faced challenges as they navigated their loss and healing. “You have to make space for great happiness and in the same sense great sadness,” Andrea said. Sherry added, “Our love started in both of our most vulnerable and difficult times, but it created such a strong and unforgettable foundation.” They honored each other’s pasts, celebrating their late wives’ anniversaries together, reflecting on cherished memories. 

Refining Hope in Life 

Sherry and Andrea’s love became a beacon of strength and resilience in their grieving process. “In moments when I can tell she’s lost in a memory, I ask if she wants me to hold  

her hand or needs a minute alone. It is important to realize when your friend and partner needs support,” Andrea shared. Their relationship showcased the transformative power of love, fostering hope and healing even in the darkest times. “The most amazing thing is seeing each other sparkle in our eyes. It’s true passion and true love,” Andrea said. Sherry agreed, “If you do the work, there’s always hope on the other side.” 

A New Beginning 

From strangers in a bereavement group to lovers who found solace and love in each other, Sherry and Andrea’s journey is a testament to the profound impact of Fenway Health’s LGBTQIA+ bereavement groups. They are now set to marry during Pride Month, celebrating with a Jewish lesbian wedding surrounded by loved ones, as well as the LGBTQIA+ Aging Project’s director, the support group’s facilitator and friends they’ve made from the support group.   

Neither came looking for love, and the bereavement support group is not a dating service. But the group’s history of fostering long-term friendships, pride parade buddies, and now one great love story highlights its role as a safe space to grieve, build connections, and rebuild hope. “These connections are important to us because they understand what we went through,” Andrea concluded. 

Sherry and Andrea’s story is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of love in overcoming grief and finding new beginnings. 

“I’m thankful to Fenway Health for creating a safe and supportive space for LGBTQIA+ people in grief to come together. It will always hold a special place in my heart,” Andrea said. Sherry added, “When you are grieving or in deep sadness, do whatever you need to do to not stay there for too long. There’s hope.” 

 

For more information about the LGBTQIA+ Bereavement Group, email [email protected] or call 857.313.6590. 

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