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Pausing to Reflect on What it’s Really Like to be Part of a Donor Family

Organ, eye, and tissue transplants represent miracles to recipients whose lives are saved and whose suffering is relieved when they receive their transplant. Human nature compels most people to “look on the bright side” of life events and celebrate with gratitude the various gifts bestowed upon us, but in the context of organ, eye, and tissue donation, doing so makes it easy to overlook the fact that, while donation and transplantation are amazing, transformative processes, they originate in the pain and loss of others.

Donate Life Month is a time of heightened awareness about the process of organ, eye, and tissue donation and transplantation. At The Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin, we believe that it’s important to pause and reflect on the entire process of donation and transplantation, not only the outcomes for recipients but what it’s really like to be part of a donor family.

Many of us at The Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin are personally touched by organ, eye, and tissue donation on the donor side of the process and relate completely to the bittersweetness that donation and transplantation represent for some donor families.

We know that, on the one hand, many donor families find great comfort and inspiration in their loved one’s decision or ability to help save and enhance the lives of others upon their passing with their gifts of organs, eyes, and tissues. Yet, on the other hand, there is still profound grief and sometimes frustration that the person they cherish so deeply has passed, but as a result of their passing, someone else gets to live a full, healthy life.

These feelings are very normal and part of a complex grief process that is, in many ways, unique to organ, eye, and tissue donor families. It is not uncommon for family members of donors to wonder about themselves, “How is it possible that I’m proud, inspired, and even hopeful when it means that someone I love so much is gone?”

Those of us who work in this field understand that when it comes to the emotions surrounding the loss of a loved one and supporting organ, eye, and tissue donation, it is not an either/or scenario. We know that it is not only possible but very normal to feel these conflicting emotions all at once or to vacillate between them throughout the grief and bereavement process.

At The Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin, we are committed to standing with donor families at the time of their loved ones passing and beyond. While we are not licensed grief and bereavement counselors, we have helped support thousands of donor families on this unique and sometimes lonely journey. Our experience as professionals dedicated to this specialized work and as people also touched by donation and transplantation compels us to strive to provide the most compassionate care possible to those in need.

If you or someone you love is suffering from the pain of grief following the passing of a loved one, you are not alone. The Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin offers guidance, support, and resources to help all who are touched by donation navigate the waters of grief. Visit our Donor Families page on our website to find more information on connecting with others touched by donation or to find local, professional resources that can provide you with comprehensive counseling and support.

We’re a Part of the Healing Process for Donor Families. You Can Be Too!

The Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin provides varying degrees of support to more than 1,000 donor families each year. Yet, there is so much more that we want to do to care for families in need.

Our goal is to raise $200,000 in 2025 to expand the services we offer donor families. Your charitable gifts to The Donor Families Fund are a meaningful expression of the care and support you have for those whose loved one gave the gift of sight.

If you have already demonstrated your support for donor families by making a contribution, we thank you! If not, please consider making a gift now. Your contribution today helps ensure that someone will see the world in a whole new light tomorrow!

There are many ways to show your support for donor families. Become a monthly donor to The Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin to sustain our ongoing work. If you own a business, consider becoming a corporate partner. Create a visionary legacy by including The Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin in your estate plan. You can learn more about supporting donor families by visiting our website at: www.LEBW.org, or contacting Stefanie Dziedzic, Chief Development Officer at [email protected], or by phone at +1 (608) 416-1712.

Want to Volunteer in Support of Donor Families?

Sign up today to learn more, or contact Eden Brunson, Communications and Outreach Coordinator, at [email protected], or +1 877-233-2354 ext. 275.


LEBW “In Sight” Newsletter: Vol. 1, Article 3.