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~ About Journey of Hearts ~

A Unique Medical/Healthcare Web Resource
Journey of Hearts is a unique web experience. This site combines elements of medicine, psychiatry, poetry, prose and images to provide resources and support to those who have experienced loss, be it acute or long- standing. By bringing together these different disciplines and combining various aspects with images and color we have developed a new style of website, one that can be "experienced" as much as accessed for medical information.

In creating the design, the needs of those in the acute, numbing or severe, reactive stages of grief were carefully considered. Soothing images and colors were selected so those intensely grieving could find therapeutic benefit from experiencing the site without reading the words. In the redesign we debut "A Healing Place" where a calming, soothing or inspiring image is combined with a thought, a quote, a poem, or a lyric and becomes a place for healing--a brief mini mental vacation, a short online coffee break, or a respite from the day-to-day grind.

The reasons and importance for combining elements from medicine and art to create this site may best be explained in the following quote:

Medicine & Art Collage
Let us keep open the connections whereby the human spirit may freely move between the arts and the sciences and thus make more of each.

May we thus become better violinists, scientists, artists, writers, and above all...better human beings by enlarging and enriching our personal needs to include each other's.

Yehudi Menuhin

This site was designed for those who are in the early stages of grief, loss and bereavement to provide words of solace, condolence, hope and inspiration. This site utilizes a concept we have termed Transitional Medicine to help visitors through the grief process. It is also for those who are ready to start healing after a significant loss, accept, assimilate, and recover from the loss and recoginze they are forever transformed.

The Idea
A site such as Journey of Hearts is one that doesn't just "happen" over night. In the summer of 1997 my computer guru husband kept urging me to do something combining medicine and computers. He made a random comment, "We should do a website." The idea to create a website devoted to the topic of loss was the culmination of many different influences--people, patients, events, practicing medicine and life experiences.

Key to the idea to create the website were several informal discussions with other physicians. Collectively, we were seeing more people with anxiety, grief or depression. Once the major medical problems were ruled out and the depression diagnosis made, these patients often were unable or unwilling to seek counseling due to time constraints, limitation of mental health resources in rural areas, the costs of counseling and not insignificantly, the social stigma of being diagnosed with depression, grief, or anxiety.

A search of the Internet in 1997 for websites related to grief, loss, and bereavement, revealed the existing grief sites were created by social workers, psychologists and ordinary people who had experienced a loss. The only physician-sponsored websites were for mental illness and involved psychiatrists. With the trend towards primary care physicians diagnosing and treating more depression, it seemed logical for a primary care physician to create a website devoted to the topics of grief, loss and depression.

The "A-ha" moment came as I watched the worldwide grief response to the tragic death of Princess Diana and a few days later the death of Mother Teresa. It was suddenly clear to me that there was a real need for education on the overlooked topics of grief and loss. How else could one explain the enormous public outpouring of emotions and tears of sorrow, unless these deaths were triggering old, unresolved grief issues in those mourning the loss of these two women, touching the place in the heart where their own losses had been hidden or repressed.

The Name
I knew that I wanted to create a healing place for people who are grieving on the Internet, a place to provide information and nourish the soul. The byline, "A Healing Place in Cyberspace" came first, chosen for the alliteration. The title for the website was influenced by a book of poetry that I had self-published with a dear friend in 1996, "Messages from the Heart: A Journey in Healing." Visitors to the site may have their own interpretation of "Journey of Hearts." The name "Journey of Hearts" is to remind us how ubiquitous the experience of loss really is...the heart journeys following loss.

Each person travels on his or her own unique journey in experiencing of the loss. What we have in common is that the grief response is felt most intensely by the heart. There is a common "language" those who have experienced grief speak, one that can often be understood without words. Many times all that is required to let someome know you have been there, you understand their grief is ust a understanding look, a reassuring touch on the arm or a heart-felt hug.

I believe it is the sharing of the losses of many hearts that our own heart begins to heal. As the grieving person recognizes that others have lived through loss and survived he or she will begin to realize that he/she can survive the loss. With this knowledge the heart grows stronger, more sensitive and more understanding of the suffering of others.

The Site
The Journey of Hearts website was launched in October 1997 to serve as an Internet resource for those with who have experienced a loss and are going the grief response. The site was created to educate visitors and heighten public awareness of grief, loss, and bereavement and to de-stigmatize societal views on depression. Through education we believe the site empowers people by providing education about the commonality of these life experiences to better understand grief, and, if needed, seek care. To my knowledge we are still the only physician-sponsored, physician-maintained Internet resource devoted to educating visitors on grief and loss.

The original idea for the website was to combine different resources—medicine, mental health, psychiatry, poetry, prose and images with self-help concepts that could provide online resources and support for anyone grieving a loss; it is for those who are ready to start processing the grief emotions after experiencing a loss. In addition to providing medical and non-medical information on loss and the grieving processs to help visitors better understand their response, the site also utilizes concepts of art, poetry and bibio- therapies. By bringing together these different disciplines and combining various aspects with images and color we developed a new style of medical website that could serve as an educational resource, an adjunct to medical treatment, and a "prescription for a virtual hand holding."

It was important to include images and color as a significant component in the design of the site, so as to have a resource that could be experienced visually, without having to read the words. Thus those in the early, numbing phases of grief could be benefited from seeing soothing, calming images. This concept has been expanded upon in the redesign, with the creation of "A Healing Place." This sections contains carefully selected images and quotes for the times when visitors may be too distraught to read, but may still benefit from just sitting and experiencing the colors and images on the site.

We hope that Journey of Hearts will become a model for medical sites in the future, combining the best of the medical resources and blending it with artistic color and images, to create websites designed for web-education, a resource accessible to anyone with a computer.

The Goals (See also Mission Statement)
One of the goals for Journey of Hearts™ is to provide a variety of Grief AIDEs— information,  techniques for coping, resources, and links to other websites. These Grief AIDEs are designed to help grieving people understand the grieving process and find their own healthy way of coping with a loss, to discover their internal source of strength in the midst of the crisis, to get through the shock and the grief reaction and ultimately emerge from the crisis a changed, transformed person.

Another goal for Journey of Hearts™ is to provide education for professionals— primary care and specialty  physicians, counselors, nurses, mental health—to bridge the gap in treatment—in the transitional area between medicine and psychiatry; this Transitional Medicine area is one where the topics of grief and loss seem to get "lost." This inbetween zone that is predominately one of support has long been ignored and neglected by the medical field and relegated to nursing, clergy, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists and support staff.

The Commitment
Every few years other tragedies have occurred to underscore the importance of maintaining the site to provide education on grief and loss. In 1999 it was the tragic shootings in Columbine and then the unexpected deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law. Now two years later, the events of September 11, 2001 have reinforced the timeliness and relevance of the materials, resources, education and support provided on the Journey of Hearts site.

One of my personal responses to the 9-11 events has been a strengthened commitment to continutine educating both colleagues and the public and aiding in the healing process by helping to explain and normalize the grief response to loss.

The Motivation
When we started on this Journey in the fall of 1997, now going on 4 1/2 years, we decided that if the site helped even one person, then it was worth having spent many 1,000's of voluntary hours to create and maintain the site. That wish has been realized already over a hundred times. The heartfelt responses and comments I have received from so many who have found solace, peace and serenity in the site, provide me motivation to continue.

Knowledge empowers the grieving person to overcome the grief
and begin recovering and healing from a significant loss.

Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS

See the Emergency 911 Page for links to immediate resources
if you are feeling helpless, hopeless, overwhelmingly depressed, or suicidal.

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Information on this site is designed to support, not replace, an existing physician-patient, provider-patient relationship. We regret that we are unable to answer any specific medical, mental or health related emails. Please contact your health care provider if you need specific questions answered. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement.
All material, unless otherwise specified, is © 1997-2003 by Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS of Journey of Hearts. Information on this site may be shared with others, but not in for-profit ventures without permission.
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Last update July 20, 2002