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A local woman is expanding the conversation about grief

Posted at 6:02 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 19:02:35-04

PLYMOUTH (NBC 26) — One local woman wants to give companies more resources to help employees navigate the grieving process.

  • Shirley Krause used the grief she experienced after the death of her husband to help others.
  • She began a program at her workplace Sargento Cheese to help people with end-of-life-planning and grief counseling, which she plans to spread to other businesses.
  • Video shows Krause's story and what she hopes to achieve.

Shirley Krause of Sheboygan County lost her husband Randy Susen almost four years ago after 30 years together.

"I had to tell my husband who I loved so much that I couldn’t save him,” Krause said.

Susen suffered a subdural hematoma, or brain bleeding, while they were vacationing in Croatia, which began Krause’s grueling, nine-month-long process of fighting for her husband. She said she struggled to advocate for Susen within a healthcare system that she felt did not always listen to her; and COVID-19 restrictions only complicated the situation, as Krause could no longer physically see her husband every day.

"I contacted Oprah Winfrey, hoping that she would hear my story and she'd want to help,” Krause said.

But despite advocating for him every step of his medical journey, Randy Susen died in July 2020.

"On our grandson's birthday,” Krause remembers.

Krause’s experience with grief made her want to help others. It’s what Luann Travis, who supervises a bereavement program at Sharon S. Richardson Community Hospice, calls “making meaning of the grief.”

Krause reached out to her employer Sargento Cheese, who she said had been empathetic throughout this process, and was then connected to Travis.

"I could tell from the onset that this dream was ambitious and it was big,” Travis said. “It wasn't about a one-time-and-done little thing"

Krause and Travis created a program at Sargento that provides end-of-life planning, international travel preparedness, grief support, and traumatic brain injury education.

"It was an intentional program to hopefully cultivate more empathy in the workplace for being aware of grief,” Travis said.

Krause said it’s an important conversation to have.

"Grief is very misunderstood in the United States,” Krause said. “We think it's a linear process, 1-2-3, you're done… Life doesn't work that way."

Krause said they're working to use this model in businesses throughout the community, and eventually, the nation.

"Empathy in the workplace is a good business strategy,” Travis said. “The best thing you can do is keep cultivating these conversations about empathy in the workplace."

Krause has a message for anyone experiencing grief.

“Don’t give up hope,” Krause said.

March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month, and Krause and Travis are cooking up ways to spread their program further, and inspire more empathy in our workplaces.

“It’s become my life’s work,” Krause said.