~ 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
The reasons and importance for combining elements
from medicine and art to create this site may best be explained in the
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
| A Healing Place
| Loss & Grief
| Emergency Pick-Me-Ups
| Condolence & Sympathy
| Transitional Medicine
| Butterflies & Blazes
About this Site