Aftercare Program

You are not alone on this journey.
We are here to walk with you.

Comfort comes from knowing that people
have made the same journey. And solace
comes from understanding how others
have learned to sing again.

- Helen Steiner Rice

Because Grief Happens and Support Matters

The death of a loved one is considered one of the most stressful events in the life cycle. At Donor Family Services we believe that donor family support does not end with the death of a loved one. Our intent is to help you on this grief journey.

All of the following services are available upon request:

- Sensitive and caring support
- Two-year After Care Program: contact by cards, notes, letters and telephone calls
- Access to autopsy reports and an opportunity to discuss issues with hospital physicians and staff if needed
- Updates about organ and tissue recipients when available
- Bereavement literature
- Referral to community support groups and/or bereavement professionals
- Facilitation of communication and information with transplant recipients as desired
- An invitation to attend special gatherings to honor your loved one
- Twice a year distribution of Connections, the local donor family newsletter
- Opportunity to submit a quilt square to the local and national quilts to honor and recognize a loved one

Please know that the transplant recipients and our staff are forever grateful for the gifts you and your loved one have given.

You remain in our thoughts and we are here to continue to support you in any way we can.

Donor Family Facebook Group

Donor Facebook Group The purpose of the LifeChoice Donor Family Facebook Group is to provide a place for Donor Family Members to connect with other individuals who have experienced a loss, share their loved one's story, and post photographs. This is a "secret" group, as defined by Facebook, meaning that only Donor Family Members will be approved for membership and only members can see content. In order to join the group, you must have a Facebook account. To become a member, please read the terms and conditions and complete the form (click button below). Upon submitting the form, you will receive an invitation to join the group within 3-5 business days.

A staff member will monitor the group on a regular basis to answer questions, provide information about upcoming events, and make sure the guidelines of the group are being followed.

Please note: Emergency support is NOT available through this site. If you are experiencing an emergency or life-threatening situation, are feeling suicidal or homicidal, or are aware of child abuse, elder abuse, or dependent adult abuse, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.


LifeChoice recognizes that mementos, such as locks of hair, handprints, memorial cards and remembrance shawls are kind and thoughtful expressions for families whose loved one has died. Donor families have told us that it is a comfort to receive the LifeChoice remembrance packet and these mementos acknowledge the gift and the legacy that their loved one has given to save and enhance the lives of others.

Hugs from our Hearts shawls are given to organ and tissue donor families. If you or your group is interested in crocheting Hugs from our Hearts shawls, LifeChoice will provide you with a shawl kit.

Please contact Karen Gossett with any questions or to request a shawl kit. Email Karen Gossett or call 860-286-3140.

Memorial Benches

There are two memorial benches: one located on the grounds of the Connecticut State Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Connecticut and the other in the Rose Garden at Forest Park in Springfield, MA. The bench is a memorial honoring all donors and their families who have given the gift of life, through organ, tissue and eye donation - a selfless act that provided hope and life for the members of their community.


Donor Family Services Staff

Pam McGee
Family Support Manager
Email Pam

Karen Gossett
Donor Family Services Associate
Email Karen


Donor Family Advisory Council

The Donor Family Advisory Council (DFAC) guides us in the after care services we offer to donor families and helps us plan and conduct special events for donor families to honor their loved ones. The Advisory Council consists of family members of organ, tissue, and eye donors from throughout Connecticut and western Massachusetts. Together, they work to honor legacies and motivate others to embrace donation.

We welcome your presence at the DFAC meetings. The meetings are held at LifeChoice once a month on a Saturday morning. Join us for an informal gathering in a supportive environment. For more information, please e-mail Karen Gossett or call her at 860-286-3140.

Meet the members of our Donor Family Advisory Council

▼ Beth Ballard Beth Ballard

Milford, CT
Mother of Brian Wynne, cornea donor

I've been on the advisory council for 14 years in different capacities. My son, Brian Wynne, was 15 when he died in 1998. He donated his corneas. I became a member of the council because I believe that tissue and organ donation is very important and I wanted to get involved with other donor families, but also spread the word about how important tissue and organ donation is. Because of all this, I've joined the Transplant Team of Connecticut. I go with other donor family members, transplant recipient and living donors to the games every other year. This year, it was held in Houston, Texas. It's great to take part, and you can see how healthy the recipients are.

▼ Judy Baxter Judy Baxter

Storrs, CT
Mother of Becca Baxter, heart valves and cornea donor

My 13-year-old daughter, Becca, died in 2000 while swimming with her friend. Becca was a tissue donor of corneas and valves. When my husband and I made the decision that Becca would be a tissue donor, we didn't realize the long-reaching, positive effects it would have on our lives and the lives of our family and friends. So many people became aware of donation because of Becca's gift, and they became part of the donation/education circle through their responses and activities. I have been a member of the Donor Family Advisory Council since 2001, and I am a DMV ambassador for organ/tissue donation in our area. I feel truly blessed with the friends I have made on the council over the past 13 years. I'm thankful for their understanding, listening and love; what a wonderful gift.

▼ Barbara Buckalew Barbara Buckalew

Manchester, CT
Mother of Christopher Boehm, organ and tissue donor

My son Christopher Boehm, died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 1998. His co-worker began CPR immediately and kept his circulation going, so we were able to donate of of his organs and tissues. Eight people were saved by his organ donations and as many as 50 people had their lives enhanced from his tissue donation. Four people regained their sight. This has given me a lot of comfort, knowing his spirit lives on in those he saved. I joined the Donor Family Advisory in 2001 and have found this group of caring friends to be invaluable. It is a group where you can say whatever is in your heart and know everyone understands. I don't know what I would do without them. I help with mailings, and a young woman recipient and I speak to driving school students about registering to be organ and tissue donors. We are happy to learn most of them sign up when they get their learner's permits. I also arrange to circulate the Loving Squares Quilts to libraries around the state to help raise awareness about this important act of Giving the Gift of Life.

▼ Kathleen Garvie Kathleen Garvie

Amston, CT
Mother of Erin Garvie, tissue, heart valves and cornea donor

I've been with the council for two years. My daughter died in 1998, on the day after Christmas, in a car accident. She was 17. She donated her corneas, bone marrow and tissues. I've been on the council since 2000. I wanted to help. I've made a lot of new friends - friends who understand where you're at, and how you're feeling. In other places, people don't get it, or they think I should be over losing my daughter by now. They think it was a long time ago and can't understand why I still feel sad sometimes. Or they don't know that I've lost a child, and it can be a hard thing to talk about. People here can relate to what I've gone through.

▼ Jeanne Lombardo Jeanne Lombardo

East Hartford, CT
Wife of Ron Lombardo, tissue donor

My husband Ron was 58 when he died in 2002. He donated his corneas, bone and tissue. Maggie Coolican, [former LifeChoice director and Donate Life Connecticut founding member,] used to call me and send me letters. I came out just to volunteer at first, but I was encouraged to join the advisory council, and so I joined in 2003. It's just such a great group of people, so kind and loving. They make you feel important, and you know that everybody understands how you're feeling because they've been in the same situation. It's a nice group of people and we enjoy each other's company.

▼ Jeanne MacDonald Jeanne MacDonald

Mother of Heather MacDonald, tissue and cornea donor

▼ Allison Mahon and Kathy Hood Allison Mahon and Kathy Hood

Marlborough, CT
Sister and Mother of Bryan Hood, organ, tissue and cornea donor

Allison: My brother and my mother's son, Bryan, died in 2006 in a motorcycle accident. He was 23. He donated four organs, and his tissue, bone and corneas. We started volunteering a couple of years afterward. We wanted to have the sense of giving back to newly bereaved donor families and have the camaraderie and support from people who were further along in their journey than we were. I always say that without donation, Bryan's story would have ended the night of his accident. Because of donation, his story is still continuing because of the recipients who are still living their lives. We participate in LifeChoice activities and I do a lot of professional and public education presentations. I'm also on the board of directors for Donate Life.

Kathy: I've been a member of the advisory council since 2009. There's no place quite like this, and while we're not always discussing our lost loved ones, there's that common, unspoken bond. It's a place of understanding, a safe place for us for to grieve.

▼ Valerie Mariani Valerie Mariani

Ludlow, MA
Mother of Brittany Mariani, tissue and cornea donor

My daughter Brittany was a cornea, bone and tissue donor. She died in January of 2011 at 24 years of age in a car accident, along with her boyfriend, Rich. The Donor Family Advisory Council was a great source of comfort to me, so I wanted to get involved to be able to help other families as well. Brittany's gift of being a donor and the difference it has made in the lives of the recipients helps me focus on something positive while dealing with such a difficult loss.

▼ Dianne Pallo Dianne Pallo

Willington, CT
Wife of Michael Pallo, tissue donor

I became affiliated with LifeChoice Donor Services after Michael, my husband of 31 years, passed away suddenly from PEA, a cardiac-related death. I have been a member of the Donor Family Advisory Council since 2003 and also volunteer in the office once a month with another donor wife, putting together family packets and letters that are to be mailed. After Michael's death, I received many months of grief counseling and help from LifeChoice. I was invited to become a member of the advisory council to help other donor families like I had been helped - to "pay it forward," so to speak. As well as raising awareness, my other mission is to talk about how important it is to speak to one's family and friends of your intent to be a donor. Knowing your loved one's wishes is so helpful at a time of trauma and shock.

▼ Belle Perrone Belle Perrone

Longmeadow, MA
Mother of Michael Perrone, organ donor

I've been on the council for 10 years. My son was an organ donor. He contributed five of his organs when he died at the age of 38. Maggie Coolican was the director of LifeChoice at that time, and she would call me and send me notes frequently. I though that by joining the Donor Family Advisory Council, I could help in some way to help spread the word about organ and tissue donation. I don't know what I would do without this group. They have given me more support than I could have imagined.

▼ Irma Schoen Irma Schoen

Windsor, CT
Wife of Gil Schoen, cornea donor

Irma (Herrup) Schoen's husband, Gilbert Schoen, died in 2001. Because he died of cancer, he couldn't donate any organs but his eyes were donated to the Eye Bank for research. After being invited to a LifeChoice Gathering, Irma became a member of the Donor Family Advisory Council in 2002. She said she found it "a pleasure to be associated with such a warm, caring and dedicated group of people. I do my best to spread the word about organ and tissue donations whenever possible. I volunteer here, come to meetings, and I've gotten speakers for several organizations. I just love being here. I feel good, and being with a crowd that's different from anywhere else is wonderful. Everybody here is in the same boat. You may be telling a story about your loved one, and if you feel like laughing or crying, you can, because you know that the others here will understand." Irma, a resident of West Hartford, passed away in June 2016 after a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

▼ Nancy Tyson-Alexander Nancy Tyson-Alexander

Coventry, CT
Wife of Dr. Albert Alexander, organ, tissue and cornea donor

My husband, Dr. Albert Alexander, died in 2006. He donated his corneas, kidneys, lungs, tissue and veins. Through his donations, he was able to save or improve the lives of over 100 people. I've been on the board of directors at LifeChoice for about five years, and I'm in my second year as a member of the advisory council. I love being among these wonderful women to help get the word out and to share their loss. Even when we are in the midst of sorrow, there is joy in the work of what we do to make people more aware of the importance of organ and tissue donation. We still live with the memories of our loved ones and our loss, but we want to honor our loved ones by doing the work that we do. I'm also associated with the Association for Multicultural Affairs in Transplantation. My main mission is to educate and inform people about the importance of donation, especially for people of color.

▼ Pam Woodward Pam Woodward

Enfield, CT
Wife of Tom Woodward, organ, tissue and cornea donor

I got involved with LifeChoice after my husband died as a result of brain trauma in 2007. He donated his kidney, pancreas, corneas and skin tissue. Over the next two years, [Family Support Manager] Pam McGee was so wonderful - she gave me a lot of advice and encouragement during a very difficult time in my life. I joined the advisory council in 2009. I enjoy the gatherings and the camaraderie with the other members.



To view upcoming events, click here.



To read the latest version of Connections, our family donor newsletter, click here. If you would like to receive our newsletter by email, please click here.


Memorial Contributions

If you would like to send a financial contribution in honor of your loved one, please send a check to:

LifeChoice Donor Services
340 Newberry Road, Suite A
Bloomfield, CT 06002



Memorialize and Pay Tribute to Your Loved One's Legacy

Your loved one has given an incredible gift - the gift of life through organ and/or tissue donation. Please share this information with your funeral director if you wish to memorialize this gift in your loved one's obituary.

Some suggested phrases include:

"Mary gave in death as she gave in life."
"Mary was an organ (and/or tissue) donor."
"Mary's final act was to give the gift of life through organ (and/or tissue) donation."
"Mary's legacy will continue on in others by the gift of organ/tissue donation."
"Mary was a registered organ and tissue donor. Her family honored her wishes, giving hope to others and their families."

Online Tributes

If you would like to memorialize your loved one online, please visit: National Donor Memorial.


Tell Us About Your Experience

Please print, fill out and return our Donor Family Survey to help us meet your needs better. To download the survey, click here.



Video: "If I Save You, Will You Save Me?"


Grieving is personal and highly individual. We all grieve differently. How you grieve depends on many factors, personality, coping style, life experience, faith, and the relationship of the deceased in your life. There is no "normal." Remember, you are trying to do normal things in abnormal times.

Books about grief may be some of the most helpful resources for understanding grief. The mind has a very hard time staying focused during the stress of bereavement. So my advice is to read as you can and read in small portions. Find one or two grief recovery books or personal experience books that may be of some help. Some books about grief:

"A Grief Observed" by C.S. Lewis
"On Grief and Grieving" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
"On Life After Death" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
"When People Grieve: Guidance for Grievers and the Friends Who Care" by Paula D'Arcy
"Life is Goodbye, Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss" by Alla Renee Bozarth
"Grieving: Our Path Back to Peace" by James R. White
"How to Survive the Loss of a Love" by Melba Colgrove, Harold Bloomfield and Peter McWilliams
"When a Loved One Dies" by Philip Williams

Please call if we can be of any assistance: 860-286-3120.

Support Articles

Grief Words

Private Facebook Page

The Donor Family Advisory Council has established a private family Facebook page for donor families, please email Karen to receive your sign-in information.


Support Groups

Online Support Resources

To find online grief support groups, click here.

Bereavement Support in Connecticut

Compassionate Friends
Offers support and understanding; fosters the physical and emotional health of bereaved parents who have lost a child of any age. Visit Compassionate Friends, click on Find Support and then click on Chapter Locator.

The Cove
Meriden, CT
A safe haven for children ages 5-17 who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling. Visit The Cove or call 203-634-0500.

Family Centers for Hope
Darien, CT
Offers support groups for young and older widows and widowers as well as general bereavement. Also offers one-on-one counseling. Call 203-655-4693 or visit Family Centers for Hope and click on support groups/services for information on locations.

Home and Community Health Services
Enfield, CT
Offers a general bereavement group that meets the second and fourth Monday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and a widows/widowers group that meets the first and third Thursday from 5:30-7 p.m. They also offer a general bereavement group that meets in eight-week sessions and meets on Monday from 12:30-2 p.m. Call 860-763-7600 for information and registration.

Mary's Place, A Center for Grieving Children and Families
Windsor, CT
Provides grief support groups for children ages 3-12 who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling, teens ages 13-18 who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or significan person, and for young widows and widowers. Call 860-688-9621 for information, registration and location.

Safe Place to Grieve Foundation, Inc.
Wethersfield, CT
Offers support groups for young and older widows and widowers as well as general bereavement. Also offers Holiday Bereavement and Support programs. Call 860-563-5677 or go to Safe Place to Grieve Foundation, Inc..

Survivors of Homicide (statewide)
Wethersfield, CT
Call 860-257-7388 or visit Survivors of Homicide for information and locations.

United Way of CT (statewide)
Rocky Hill, CT
Provides support groups for adult parental, parental and/ or child loss, cancer, suicide or homicide loss, widow/widowers. For information and location, call 211 or visit United Way of CT.

Greater Hartford Area
Call 860-493-7328 for information, registration and locations in Glastonbury, Hartford, Meriden and Newington.

VNA & Hospice of Fairfield County
Various support groups and locations. Call 203-762-8958, ext. 255 or go to VNA & Hospice of Fairfield County and scroll to community programs/events, then click on bereavement support groups for information and registration.

VNS of CT Visiting Nurse Services of CT
Torrington, CT
Provides a variety of services in addition to bereavement counseling. Call 203-330-9198 for information.

Please be advised that the information referenced here is updated annually. You are advised to call before attending any of these programs.

Bereavement Support in Massachusetts

Annunciation Chapel
Florence, MA
They offer a widow and widower bereavement support group. They also offer a yearly seminar on Surviving the Holidays as well as individual grief therapy and counseling. For more information, contact Georgina Moroney at 413-584-1753.

Baystate Medical Center
Springfield, MA
Offers an open bereavement group for adults who have suffered from any type of loss. For more information on this group, contact Ute Schmidt at 413-794-0112. They also offer a learning and sharing group for children 9-13 who have suffered the loss of a special person. Please contact 413-794-3264 for dates and times.

Chicopee Council on Aging & Senior Center
Chicopee, MA
Offers a widow and widower bereavement group that is made up of mostly seniors, and has been meeting for more than 12 years. If interested in attending this group, please contact Irene Remillard at 413-594-6092.

Compassionate Friends
Offers support and understanding; fosters the physical and emotional health of bereaved parents who have lost a child of any age. Visit Compassionate Friends, click on Find Support and then click on Chapter Locator.

Cooley-Dickinson Hospital
Northampton, MA
Offers a Writing Bereavement Group that meets for 10 weeks. For more information on the next starting date and to register, contact Becky Jones, hospital chaplain, at 413-582-2869.

HospiceCare in the Berkshires
Pittsfield, MA
Offers many bereavement groups that meet on a monthly basis. For more information or to register for any of the groups, contact Peggy Zamierowksi at 413-443-2994.

Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts
Provides compassionate services to families and individuals of any religion. Call the Springfield office at 413-737-2601, or the Northampton office at 413-582-6790.

Mary Lane Hospital
Ware, MA 01082
Offers a grieving support group that is open to anyone who has suffered from any type of loss. For more information, contact Stasia Wozniak at 413-972-2225. They also offer a support group entitled Joshua's Light that is for parents and families who have lost a child. For more information, contact Denise Langley at 413-477-0101.

Mercy Medical Center
Springfield, MA
Offers a general bereavement support group that is open to anyone who has suffered a loss. For more information, contact Sr. Madeleine Joy at (413) 748-9453.

O'Connell Forastiere Smith Funeral Home
East Longmeadow, MA
The O'Connell Forastiere Smith Funeral Home sponsors two different bereavement groups at the Captain Charles Leonard House. They have a widow/widower's support group and also have a Friends & Family group. The Forastiere-Smith Grief Center offers a Healing After Suicide support group and a Friends & Family group. All groups are held on a drop-in basis. For more information, contact Joanne Sullivan at 413-733-5311.

Quaboag Valley Hospice
Palmer, MA
Offers different bereavement groups throughout the year to provide support to those who have lost a loved one. Discussion includes topics on the nature of grief and tips on how to navigate through this most difficult time. Groups are free, and are held at different locations. For information on dates, times and locations, please contact Fr. Dominic at 413-283-9715.

Rick's Place
Wilbraham, MA
Serves families with children ages 5-12 in the Greater Springfield area and northern Connecticut. Children attend the program with an adult, who will meet with other parents, guardians and caregivers while children become part of small groups targeted by age. For more information or to register, contact Shelly Bathe-Linn, the program coordinator, at 413-348-3120.

The Garden: A Center for Grieving Children and Teens
Northampton, MA 01060
Supports young people and their families by providing them with a place to talk about loss and help parents and guardians learn how to help their children through their grief. Their focus is the child, but the program is for the whole family. They also offer a teen group that meets regularly to provide support to those who have experienced a significant loss. For more information or to register for either of these groups, please contact Shelly Bathe-Linn at 413-584-7086, ext. 124.

VNA & Hospice of Cooley-Dickinson
Northampton, MA
Offers a bereavement support group for adult children dealing with the loss of a parent. They meet on Wednesdays from 6-7:30 p.m. Throughout the year, they offer different groups based on what the needs are at the time. For more information on current group offerings, contact Seana Carmean at 413-582-5320.

Please be advised that the information referenced here is updated annually, You are advised to call before attending any of these programs.

Symbol of Hope

Meaning of the Butterfly Symbol

The butterfly is a symbol of hope, the symbol of new life and the symbol of those who are bereaved. To read more, click here.


Recipient Updates

Many donor families ask whether they can have contact with their loved one's recipients. Some wonder how their loved one's organ recipients are doing doing months and years after the transplant or wish they knew how many people were helped with their loved one's tissue, such as bone and skin.

For further recipient update information, please click here.



Aftercare Program
Donor Family Services Staff
Donor Family Advisory Council
Memorial Contributions
Tell Us About Your Experience
Support Groups
Symbol of Hope
Recipient Updates




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