After grief, former Broncos quarterback creates a home

10:14 PM, Dec 5, 2011   |    comments
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"I found I needed balance. If I put all my energy into football I wouldn't have balance and perspective. And then the other thing was, that's when I had the most leverage," Griese said.

He had a platform and he knew this was the best time for him to honor his mother.

Judi Griese died when Brian was 12 years old. He remembers his mom as someone who was always finding a way to help others. Brian Griese had a hard time accepting her death.

"The thing that I don't think people realize is when you lose somebody it impacts you in a way that is so powerful, that it doesn't leave, ever," he said.

Unable to properly grieve his mother's death as a child, Griese says he became introverted as an adult. When faced with criticism on the football field, he isolated himself even more.

He explained it like this: "I didn't have anywhere to turn, so I had to figure out a way on my own. And that became my survival mechanism, and unfortunately, kind of painted the career that I had for the Broncos."

"Judi's House" allowed Griese a chance to come out from behind that wall. In his rookie season, he began the process of researching a program to help grieving children and families.

A short time later he met Brook, a woman who was pursuing her PhD in clinical psychology. On their first date, he asked her if she could do anything for children, what would that be? Within minutes they were talking about his dreams of starting Judi's House. Within a year, the dream became a reality.

The first group to receive support included 12 boys and girls. Sitting in a circle, they introduced themselves and talked about the death they were grieving. Using just his first name, Brian Griese explained he was grieving the loss of his mom. At that moment, Brook says she saw a light in his eyes, one she had never seen before.

"He saw and felt the healing power of bringing people together. Grief can be so isolating when you're a child," she said.

Brian Griese gives that first group of children the credit for helping him get through his grieving process, one that he calls "transformative."

Brian and Brook married a couple of years later and now have two children. They call Denver their home. Judi's House is why they are here. Thousands of children and their families have taken part in the programs offered at the house. Children are placed in age appropriate groups and use art, and play in an energy room as part of the experience. Adults also find support in groups with other adults experiencing a loss. Skilled professionals run the groups and help facilitate the grieving process.

While offering a program in the metro area school system, the Grieses know there are many more in need of these services.

"Almost 50 percent of our families are at the poverty line coming to Judi's House. So really it is the one thing that unifies all of us," Brian Griese said.

The subject matter is serious and difficult for many people to discuss, but Brook Griese says it can be incredibly powerful too. She often witnesses a similar response to what she saw in her husband during that first group meeting.

"They can tell their story and they are not alone any longer, and can find ways to heal. Even the very first time they come here, I see a change in them as they walk out the door. It is one of hope and life and celebration," she said.

This year, Brian Griese was awarded the 2011 Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy, presented each year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The award celebrates and promotes the selfless service of people within the world of sports, whose efforts make a difference in the lives of others.

You can support Judi's House on Colorado Gives Day, Dec. 6, through www.giving.first.org. To learn more about Judi's House and the programs for children and teenagers go to http://www.judishouse.org/.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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