Empowerment Drumming Helps Students Battle Grief and Loss

On Wednesday, March 29, Counseling Center Intern Hilary Miller set up “Grieving Through Empowerment Drumming,” an event that took place in Sarah’s Coffeehouse to promote healthy activity even when not feeling the greatest.

When asked what inspired the event, Miller stated, “As a counselor, I work one on one with students in sessions, but I also do programs like this. I’m trying to start [an annual] group, which was sort of the thought of this grief and loss group.”

Miller set up the program via Peter Scheer, a friend who graduated from Shippensburg University in December 2016, where Miller herself will graduate in May 2018. The two met while working to earn a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Scheer works with “HealthRHYTHMS,” a foundation ten years in the making that is made up of programs such as the Group Empowerment Drumming program that facilitates group communications and expression by playing the drums. The specific theme, grief and loss, is what Miller decided to go with for this first meeting on campus. Scheer and his friend Andrea Geesaman, who graduated with a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Shippensburg University as well, co-facilitated the session so that participants would know what to do.
Several students, including Caroline Willson ’18, participated, and as Willson noted, the theme was not as black and white as one would probably guess.

Peter Acheer (left) instructs participants
Photo provided by Hillary Miller

“I enjoyed the concept that it could be the loss of anything, that grievance isn’t the only key component to why we feel the way we do about loss. It doesn’t always mean grief,” Willson commented. “That’s part of it, but it’s not everything. The instructor, Peter, told us it could be the loss of anything. Like with how Dory [from Finding Dory] probably felt with how she lost her parents and lost her mind, that’s kind of how I feel. I felt like I’ve lost myself at one point in life. The fact that I could vent about it [through drumming], that was the best part to me.”

Miller also reflected on what she believes participants should take from it, saying, “The biggest importance is acceptance. Acceptance of your feelings, where you’re at, and not feeling like you need to be anywhere except for where you are. Just drum whatever you feel and I think that that’s what’s so important in grief to begin with.”

Miller plans to do the event again in the fall. In the meantime, students are encouraged to schedule individual sessions with her as well as attend other counseling events, such as the Flawed Family Program and Stress Relief Series. The Flawed Family Meetings are every Tuesday from 4-5 p.m. in Sarah’s Coffeehouse and the next upcoming installment of the Stress Relief Series is on April 20 in Lenfest Commons. The Stress Relief Series will help students stressing over upcoming finals.

To students who are hesitant with counseling or group therapy, Miller says, “To students who are considering counseling but are not quite sure: we have open ears, we are not judgmental, and we’ll accept you where you’re at. But you have to come when you’re ready, and we’ll be here when you feel ready.”

If in need of counseling services, students can contact the Wilson College Counseling Center at counseling@wilson.edu or visit the center in Upper Lenfest past the nurse’s office.

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