Luther College Chips

New Chapter of Actively Moving Forward Started on Campus

Alex+Atal+%28%2719%29%2C+Jana+Mueller+%28%2719%29%2C+Pastor+Annie+Edison-Albright+advertising+Actively+Moving+Forward+at+the+Fall+Activities+Fair
Alex Atal ('19), Jana Mueller ('19), Pastor Annie Edison-Albright advertising Actively Moving Forward at the Fall Activities Fair

Alex Atal ('19), Jana Mueller ('19), Pastor Annie Edison-Albright advertising Actively Moving Forward at the Fall Activities Fair

Photo Courtesy of Jana Mueller ('19) | Chips

Photo Courtesy of Jana Mueller ('19) | Chips

Alex Atal ('19), Jana Mueller ('19), Pastor Annie Edison-Albright advertising Actively Moving Forward at the Fall Activities Fair

Martel Den Hartog, Staff Writer

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As students begin to arrive on campus in the fall, they scramble to find clubs and activities to sign up for, often deciding to explore new organizations at the Student Activities Fair. New to the list of student organizations this year is a chapter of Actively Moving Forward (AMF), a nationally recognized, peer-led grief support group for those grieving the illness or death of a loved one, including parents, siblings, caretakers, friends, or pets.

Jana Mueller (’19), a co-leader of AMF, is spearheading the organization by facilitating meetings that happen during the semester, and connecting to other leaders across the country via web-conferencing. Mueller’s personal experience with the loss of a family member caused Pastor Annie and Meg Hammes to recommend that she start an AMF chapter at Luther. With the help of her friend, Alex Atal (’19), Mueller hopes to create a supportive environment for students who have experienced similar losses to be in community with one another.

“It’s a group that no one wants to be part of,” Mueller said. “But we are here to support you, and we will figure it out together.”

Mueller and Atal are qualified to be co-leaders of AMF through their personal experience and monthly collaboration and discussion with other leaders. Through these conversations, they learn new strategies and techniques for opening lines of communication and navigating members through crises. According to the AMF website, one in three college students will experience the loss of a loved one during their college career.

“If you’re not affected, one of your friends or close family members would be,” Atal said. “Even if you aren’t going through grieving process, it is a good thing to be part of, so that you know what to do if somebody that you’re close to does experience loss. We want to help people get through their grief, inform other people how to help people who are grieving, and stop the stigmatization of grieving.”

The organization is constructed in two parts. The first is the grief support group. Many people are unfamiliar with what it is like to lose a parent or sibling during young adulthood, so this aspect of AMF includes talking about the feelings that members are going through, discussing positive memories, or just getting together and not talking about it at all. Other activities include Whippy walks, cookie baking, and frisbee tossing in Benthal Commons.

“It’s just to be with people who understand,” Mueller said. “We’ll do things like study groups, where everyone brings a snack and we hold each other accountable for studying. When you’re grieving, it can be really difficult to focus.”

Photo courtesy of Jana Mueller (’19) | Chips
Sarah Retz (‘22), Alex Atal (‘19), and Jana M ueller at first AMF meeting during their Whippy Walk

The second part of AMF is the service component. Members of the group will participate in suicide prevention walks, breast cancer awareness events, and other service projects.

“When students are putting action to their grief, they have better outcomes,” Mueller said. “Studying becomes easier. People’s mood and how they connect to those around them will improve when they’re doing something through service.”

David Fajgenbaum started Ailing Mothers and Fathers in 2004 while attending Georgetown University and grieving the illness and loss of his mother due to brain cancer. The name has changed from Ailing Mothers and Fathers to Actively Moving Forward for inclusivity sake, but its goals remain the same. According to the AMF website, over 200 campuses are involved with the organization, helping more than 3,000 students nationwide.

The group is not limited to people who have first-hand experience with loss. Students who have roommates or friends grieving are also invited to attend, as well as anyone who is interested in being a resource for a someone going through grief.

Pastor Annie, an advisor to AMF echoed Atal’s sentiments, adding that AMF could aid students on campus in ways they may not typically experience.

“One of the common experiences of grief is isolation, especially during college,” Pastor Annie said. “Home might seem even farther away than usual, and it can be hard to find a peer to talk to who understands what you’re experiencing. Having a group of people who get together fairly regularly to check in with each other, do service projects, and visibly be a resource for students to turn to when they need a peer who gets it—that will be a real help.”

Support for students experiencing grief is something that Luther has provided before the AMF chapter was started, and it should be noted that AMF is not a counseling group, but it is intended to complement resources such as counseling services, college ministries, health services, residential life, and other student services.

“College Ministries and Counseling have been collaborating for many years to offer support to students who are grieving,” Pastor Annie said. “For some students, faith is an incredibly important resource during these times, but that won’t be the most meaningful resource or approach for everyone. We want students to know that they don’t have to come from a particular faith-tradition, core conviction, or background to be part of AMF, and that there won’t be an expectation that everyone’s approaching issues of grief and faith from the same perspective.”

Meg Hammes, Director of Counseling Services and another advisor to AMF, reiterated how AMF is a powerful way for students who are grieving to get support and make a positive difference in the lives of their peers and community.

“By starting a chapter here at Luther, students who have experienced the loss of a loved one can connect with each other offering hope and support in their shared experiences.” Hammes said.

The organization is pending Student Senate approval but will likely be approved in the next few weeks. Meeting dates and times will be guided by group members, potentially on a weekly or biweekly basis, alternating between support group activities and service activities.

“Grief sucks,” Mueller said. “And we would like to be that community for those who want it.”

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