Callie Weber, MDiv, Operational Director of Adult Grief Services

Danielle Visone, MSW, LCSW, Blue Butterfly Manager

Even as they proudly cut the ribbon on their new family grief center in September 2021, Tidewell Grief Care leaders understood it could be a long time before the center reached its full potential.

The COVID-19 pandemic lingered, requiring grief clients to wear masks and observe social distancing. That reduced the quantity and quality of grief support groups. Large-scale meetings and events were scaled back or moved to virtual platforms.

But now, with pandemic restrictions lifted and people eager to connect with others, the Tidewell Family Grief Center in Ellenton is bustling with daily support groups and counseling sessions along with occasional community events. It is realizing the organization’s goals for a stand-alone facility dedicated to helping those dealing with the death of someone close to them. Tidewell Grief Care is a member of Empath Health.

“I think we are definitely still figuring out what this center can be,” said Callie Weber, MDiv, Empath’s Operational Director of Adult Grief Services. “Compared to all the Tidewell sites, this is the busiest in terms of groups. Most every day of the week, we have something happening here. That is what we envisioned for this place, that it would be that connection to the community.”

The Tidewell Family Grief Center, a converted hospice house, is a first-of-its-kind facility in the region. It provides free holistic grief support for individuals, families and the community. Weber said five adult support groups currently meet at the center, and there are special drop-in coffee and art events on Mondays.

A butterfly wall honoring donors greets visitors to the Tidewell Family Grief Center.

The center also is one of two dedicated homes for the Blue Butterfly Program, which provides grief support for children and teens ages 5-18 and their caregivers. Twenty-two families meet at the center two Tuesdays per month, and another 15 are signed up for a once-a-month session on Saturdays. Beginning this week, Blue Butterfly is offering a summer camp at the Tidewell Family Grief Center and the Dream Center in Bradenton.

“Not only does it meet the need and the demand we have, I think it does set the tone by being a grief center. Families say, ‘This is where I go to do these things,’” said Blue Butterfly Manager Danielle Visone, MSW, LCSW.

Though it is one building, the center essentially is split in half. Adults use the west side, which features a coffee bar, two counseling rooms and a pair of group spaces. Blue Butterfly occupies the east side with several special touches. Four group rooms are decorated with age-specific themes appropriate for Littles, Middles, Tweens and Teens. The Middles Room features a Grief Cave, a black-light room where children can write glowing messages with special markers. When a child first arrives at Blue Butterfly, he or she may pick out a stuffed animal from the Teddy Bear Library.

The Blue Butterfly Tweens Room at the Tidewell Family Grief Center.

Connecting the two sides of the facility is a multi-purpose space that can be used for meetings or serve as a place for Blue Butterfly families to enjoy a meal before their sessions.

It’s a serene atmosphere. Weber said clients often arrive 30 minutes or more before their sessions to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

“People just like the colors. They come in and they say, ‘It’s so soothing and so nice,’” Weber said.

Outside the center, a green space is available for children and adults. It includes a labyrinth, basketball court, butterfly gardens and other features that inspire experiences essential to the healing of mind, body and spirit.

There remains room for the growth at the center. Weber hopes to increase the number of community events and grief educational opportunities.

A special butterfly chair graces the grounds at the Tidewell Family Grief Center.

But the Tidewell Family Grief Center is well on its way to being the unique community resource it was designed to be, a concept Empath Health plans to replicate in other service areas.

“The thing that has surprised the most is we’ve had walk-ins,” Weber said. “I think there is something to having the word grief on the sign. We’ve had people in the neighborhoods around here who have lost loved ones unexpectedly just walk in. I’d say we get one a week.”

To learn more about Tidewell Grief Care, Empath Grief Care and Blue Butterfly, visit