She was hired to be the social worker for the first hospice service in Payson about 10 years ago, but it was such a small operation at the time, Jo Sanders was called on to do bereavement counseling as well, and even some of the clerical work.
As the hospice management changed and grew, a full-time bereavement counselor, Allyson Danielson, was hired and now, one of the chaplains that works with RTA Hospice and Palliative Care is moving into some of the counseling services as well. That is giving Sanders more time to do the special social work required by the service hospice provides, but she still helps clients and their families through the bereavement process.
"We start the bereavement counseling at the beginning (of a family's association with hospice) to prepare them for the death," Sanders said.
The hardest challenge is getting people to realize grieving is a process and you have to go through it.
"People avoid the process, or try to," she said. "If they talk about it, they feel the pain that goes with it. It's unpleasant, but if you don't go through it at the time, it comes back to be dealt with later."
Sanders said sometimes that ignored grieving process comes back when a person suffers another loss -- of a family member or friend, or pet -- and when that happens, the pain sometimes gets magnified.
"People cope in different ways," she said. "We're not going to take that away from anyone. We take them where they're at."
The hospice bereavement counseling services are not restricted to its clients, Sanders said.
She has done group grief counseling sessions at the high school for about three years. Students who have suffered losses in their lives are identified by the school staff and given the opportunity to participate, she said. It is all voluntary though.
The services are also available others in the community, she said. "Especially now that there is a little more time with Allyson and one of the chaplains starting to get into it."
Sanders has made her home in Payson for 22 years. When she and her husband, Rob, first came to the community, she was working with Northwest Airlines, following a stint working as a counselor for troubled adolescent girls.
"That job made me decide not to have children," Sanders said. But when she left the airline, it was for maternity leave. She and her husband now have two sons and she considers her sons her greatest feat and feels she has been fairly successful as a wife and mother.
That success she attributes to her parents, her brother and sisters -- they have been her inspiration, she said. Her siblings are all older than Sanders, by several years, but they have always been close, in spite of the age and lifestyle differences.
Name: Jo Sanders
Occupation: Social worker
Employer: RTA Hospice and Palliative Care
Family: Husband, Rob; two sons, Nick and Travis
Personal motto: This too shall pass.
Inspiration: My parents and three siblings more than anything.
Greatest feat: Considering I was never going to have children, motherhood.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Music and sports.
Three words that describe me best: Good common sense
I don't want to brag but ... I'm up-to-date with my photo albums and scrapbooks.
The person in history I'd most like to meet: Mary, Queen of Scots.
Luxury defined: A good book and a beach.
Dream vacation spot: Anywhere with warm weather and a beach.
Why Payson? My husband hated Wisconsin winters, so we came here to get out of cold weather and have small town atmosphere.