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Grieving through the holidays? There’s support for that.
Experts say to talk about it, so nurse creates local Facebook group to do just that
Michelle Knell (left) with sister Lisa De Broux (center) and mother Susan De Broux (right) pose for the camera several years ago. Lisa died in 2019 due to complications of spina bifida, while Susan died just a few weeks ago from early onset vascular dementia.

MONROE — The holiday season is generally thought of a time of lights, joy and peace. However, for those grieving the loss of a loved one, the season can be anything but that.

“Don’t be shy grieving a loss during the holidays,” said Sue Hall, a certified bereavement specialist. “It’s important to mourn loss. The key is to mourn — which is the outward expression. In order to heal, we need to mourn.”

Hall runs Journey Together Through Grief, and branched out on her own after completing 150 hours of training with the Center for Loss and Life Transition, and internationally recognized organization based in Fort Collins, Colorado. She learned under Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., a noted author, educator and grief counselor.

Hall said there are several ways to help those grieving during the holidays. One simple action is to leave an open chair for the deceased as a reminder, or find another way to link and connect with actions of the past. Being with loved ones, trusted family and friends can go a long way as well. “Don’t hesitate to talk about your loss,” she said. “There can be a lot of anxiety leading up to the day of the gathering, but when that day comes, it’s not usually as bad as you might think.”

Where society fails the populace, Hall said, is the idea that one can just “get over” a loss and move on.

“There’s no such thing as a cure. There’s no timeline. You have to go at your own pace,” she said.

Hall does private counseling, as well as holds a group session at 18th & 8th Convention Center in Monroe, with the next meeting coming in March. She has a website,, and a Facebook page.

Another local Facebook page dedicated to grief was started this past week, and already has grown to a substantial following.

Green County Grief Support, created by local nurse Michelle Knell, is where local community members can come together and share their own stories.

“I’m here because I have needed to be heard, validated and pointed in the right direction regarding grief and loss. I’m hoping this group can be beneficial to people like me, while providing safe, non-judgmental and honest feelings about coping with death. I want the good, the bad, and the ugly, in hopes that as a community, we can come together to support one another,” Knell wrote in her first post to the group, which gained more than a hundred members in just the first few days.

The page was flooded with shared thanks and advice.

As a nurse, Michelle Knell has long been a witness to those struggling with illness and grief. She was on the front lines in 2020 at Monroe Clinic when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. The year before, she lost her 38-year-old sister Lisa De Broux to complications of spina bifida. In Nov. 2020, her own father, Doug De Broux, died due to complications of COVID-19, and then just weeks ago her mother Susan De Broux died at Agrace Hospice in Fitchburg from early onset vascular dementia. 

Coincidentally, all three were hospitalized at the facility she worked — her sister and father at SSM Monroe, and her mother at Agrace Hospice in Fitchburg.

“What are the odds of that?” Knell said. 

As a frontline nurse during COVID-19, she saw herself and her fellow nurses buried deeper and deeper in stress — both physical and mental. The administration, she said, had a hard enough job changing policies as the pandemic moved along, but the lack of work-life balance made it hard for everyone.

Then when her father was hospitalized and intubated in her ICU wing, that was about all she could handle. She left Monroe Clinic in early 2021 and took almost the rest of the year off as she struggled with PTSD. In Dec. 2021, she began at Agrace in Fitchburg, working part time. Since then, she wanted to get away from bedside nursing, and instead be a leader and an advocate for her fellow nurses. She put in a 4-week notice this past November to take a job in administration at Meriter in Madison, only for her mom to enter hospice in the same facility she worked at in that time.

Losing three close family members in three years was hard enough, but she and her husband Zach also had to help their two children, Lillian (9) and Zachary (7), navigate their own struggles with grief. 

Michelle said what really helped was reading a couple of books that explain life, death and grief to her children. She said her experiences also strengthened her belief in God and heaven. She said her song asked “what happens after death” and she tried to explain heaven, all while feeling comforted herself that her parents — who divorced when Michelle was an adolescent — and sister were all together again and at peace.

“Aunt Lisa is walking again, grandma has her mind back, and grandpa can breathe easy. They are all together and at peace,” Michelle said.

When her sister died, Michelle, her father and older sister Laura joined “Heal”, a 6-week private and confidential grief support program through the St. Camillus Center on 6th Street in Monroe. After her mother died, she went looking for local grief groups on several Google and social media searches, and struggled to find much.