NewsCovering Colorado


Grief educator speaking at two-day workshop in Colorado Springs

Posted at 3:58 PM, Sep 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-25 19:34:56-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — "My father was this charismatic brilliant dentist and oral surgeon," said Kathy Sparnins as she recalled what her late father was like growing up.

But behind the smile, Sparnins says her father was battling a drug and alcohol addiction.

"He was so fun and funny and nice but he had that other side when he was self-medicating that he could be frightening," she said.

At 57 years old, he died by suicide. Her grief became even more isolating at his funeral.

"No one was there because it was suicide," she said.

Years later another tragedy. Another funeral. This time her 15-year-old little sister.

"She and her girlfriend went joyriding, as kids do, and they picked up this young man and then let him drive the car," Sparnins said as she recalled the crash that took her sister's life. "He took off so fast from a stop sign that he hit a tree and killed both my sister and her friend."

Sparnins has spent 20 years helping others through grief as the Executive Director of the non-profit Voices of Grief. She trained under a world-renowned grief educator Dr. Alan Wolfelt. This week, he will help others and their families experiencing the loss of a loved one through a two-day workshop in Colorado Springs.

"He has authored at least 84 books, he’s been around the world speaking," Sparnins said.

Lisa Craig has read many of Wolfelt's books and says his book called Understanding your Grief was critical in her own grief story and her work as a therapist.

"This book was the best book I had read on grief since I started reading (grief) books in 2003 when my daughter died," Craig said.

Craig's daughter, Katie Beth, died at just 15 years old after battling challenges of cerebral palsy.

"She didn't walk, she didn't talk, she had a feeding tube all her life, and she died in her sleep when she was 15 years old," Craig said. "I found her one morning. I went in (to her bedroom) and was like, 'She's gone."

Katie Beth's death and birth were both traumatic. A healthy pregnancy quickly changed in the delivery room.

"They said, 'Oh it'll be a couple more hours and then they come in and they're telling me, 'It's going to happen now, we have to get this kid out now without doing a c-section, we don't have time for a c-section."

A lack of oxygen eventually led to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.

"I had lost her twice," Craig said. "I lost her when she was born, and I lost her when she died."

Craig's deep pain and deep understanding of grief helped her as she led grief groups and later earned her master's degree in counseling. She wants those in grief to have hope and know dealing with the pain is one of the first steps in healing.

"You're not going to get over it," she said. "You just have to learn to live with it. You have to learn to live with your grief."

Craig and Sparnins hope this week's workshop will help families and their friends to do that.

The Voices of Grief workshop is Wednesday, September 28th, and Thursday, September 29th at the UCCS ENT Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs.
Registration is free and open to the public. Register here:

Wednesday's topic is exploring the need to grieve and mourn. It runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday's topic is exploring grief after suicide. It runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

There is a $25 fee for the second day that covers the cost of lunch and materials.

The Voices of Grief says they are offering to cover the cost of lunch for the first 20 current or retired military members who sign up. Email for more information.


Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.