At the age of twenty-eight, my husband was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and was expected to live only another one to two years. At that time, I gained momentum to finish my doctoral degree to become a licensed psychologist so I could better provide for my 18-month-old baby girl and my husband. Rick actually lived for 18 years and died when our daughter was in her first semester of college. Throughout Rick’s terminal diagnosis, I knew I would ultimately be widowed at mid-life, so I chose to do my dissertation on grief and bereavement. Upon graduation, I began my career as a clinical psychologist at Pine Rest Mental Health Services, Grand Rapids, MI. Responsibilities included testing and psychotherapy with the adult population, but I did some work with adolescents as well, particularly in the areas of family conflict and eating disorders. Throughout my career in outpatient services, I specialized in loss, dying and grief issues while also providing services to help people deal with adjustment to chronic medical conditions, dealing with terminal illness, treatment of anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues including abuse components, as well as marital, family and work conflicts.
In 1997, I co-authored a book on spousal loss with Dr. Robert DeVries, a pastor and seminary professor who had also been widowed at mid-life. We eventually married and developed a dedicated mission to bereaved individuals through our writing, speaking, training, and teaching. From the time of our marriage to the present, we have continued to be very involved in conducting educational grief support groups, consulting and speaking at churches and other organizations on grief and bereavement issues, as well as presenting at major national conferences across the country. We have presented workshops on various aspects of counseling for the bereaved and a number of professional organizations, such as The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) as well as the National Funeral Directors Association, the Association of Death Education and Counseling, the International Parish Nurse Symposium, the International Conference on Death and Bereavement (La Crosse, WI), and National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, along with several others.
Since 2012, we took up residence in the bustling Atlanta, GA area for 6 to 8 months of the year because of family there, returning to beautiful West Michigan for the summer months. I am fully licensed as a psychologist in both Michigan and Georgia, and since Covid have been able to see clients both in person and virtually. I also have had short term reciprocity in a number of other states during the active Covid pandemic, and many states continue to offer that option.
Financial: Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge maintains a private practice. She receives royalties as a published author. Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge receives a speaking honorarium from PESI, Inc. She has no relevant financial relationships with ineligible organizations.
Non-financial: Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge has no relevant non-financial relationships.