‘No one is left untouched by grief’ – Shaw Local

‘No one is left untouched by grief’ – Shaw Local

Oakwood Hills resident Lisa Orris has been helping people dealing with loss and pain since 2021 by hosting support groups and retreats through her nonprofit Silver Lake Retreat. Earlier this year, she rebranded the organization as Grief Guide, hoping to make getting help as easy as possible.

“I’m not a grief expert. Nobody wants to be a grief expert,” Orris said. “But I guide people the same way a whitewater rafting guide guides you. They’ve been down that river too many times, just like I have.”

Orris was a pastor at Hope Church in Crystal Lake. In 2015, she was with her family when they learned that her oldest son, Billy, had died in a motorcycle accident. Since then, she has made it her mission to normalize grief by giving permission and a space to feel pain.

“She has a way of connecting,” said Amanda Nehring, who has worked with Orris at Silver Lake Retreat and Hope Church in Crystal Lake. “Through the loss of Billy, she’s able to create space for the loss of others.”

She has hosted Blue Christmas services for the past eight years, the last three at AROMA Coffee & Wine in downtown Crystal Lake. Orris said this past year the event was standing room only with more than 100 people.

Orris was inspired to reshape her nonprofit after suffering another loss last year following the unexpected death of her daughter-in-law. She wanted to lower the barriers to accessing help by offering free group sessions that don’t require registration.

“I let them have their own journey, their own experience,” she said. “I just take them to support groups to give them guidance, tools and exercises to help them through their grief.”

But to keep her nonprofit alive, Orris needs donations and corporate sponsorships. Donations are accepted at the website Grief Guide can be a resource for companies to help employees navigate tragedy and loss by coming to organizations with workshops and presentations, Orris said.

“I think it’s even more important that you can say that your dollar helped someone through a year of grief,” she said.

Grief Guide hosts free sessions at The Other Side, The Break, and The Pointe in Crystal Lake, all times and locations are listed on the website. There are also monthly gatherings called Sunday Serenity, Teens Talk Grief, and Parenting Through Grief.

“No one is left untouched by grief,” she said.

Orris hopes her free grief group sessions will help prevent prolonged grief disorder, also known as complicated grief, which was recognized as a disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2022. The disorder is described as intense, prolonged grief that causes distress and disrupts daily life, Orris said. The first six months of a tragedy are the most important for getting help, and often the most difficult.

“You’re just not thinking straight. You don’t want to have to jump through five hoops to get help,” she said.

And the need is there. In about six months, the organization is seeing 12 groups and about 50 to 60 people a month. When Orris presented at the People in Need forum at McHenry County College in January, “the room was packed,” she said.

“That started to tell me how much pain there is in the world and in people’s lives, but our culture doesn’t allow it,” Orris said. “We don’t give permission for people’s pain, we don’t normalize sadness.”

Her goal is to double the number of people she helps by the end of the year and to host daily meetings.