A Message from COJ Founder

We call ourselves Companions on a Journey (COJ) as we are committed to walking through life together…the highs, the lows, and the moments in-between.

Our paths have intersected because each of us has endured the death of a loved one.  A loss that stopped us in our tracks and seemingly altered our entire reality.  While we come from different backgrounds and experiences, we are united in knowing grief.  Together, we seek hope in our present, strength for our journey, and healing as we build into our future.

My path before COJ… I can clearly remember the day my family’s world was turned upside-down.  It was my son, Tony’s first day at Moeller High School.  As he began this new chapter in his life, his father’s 10-year battle with cancer came to an end.  My husband Vince died on August 24, 1993.  His death changed my entire world.  Suddenly, at the age of 37, I went from being a wife to a widow; being part of a parenting team to a single mother of three; and being at the top of my career field to questioning my life’s purpose.  My heart ached to the very core of my being. Feelings of immense pain flowed from my heart. To this day, remembering my children’s cries upon hearing of their father’s passing, brings me to tears. I felt lost, alone, confused, and frightened. As I reflect on that time in my life, I am amazed at how God has turned my sorrow into joy.

Out of my pain came my purpose and passion.  As I navigated my new world, a scripture verse came to mind; “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NAB).  Clinging to these words and grasping their meaning, I asked Jesus to be my partner in life. I found myself seeking His advice throughout the day, filling my alone moments with His presence. In doing so, God gave me the vision of one day having a bereavement center that would provide ongoing support to bereaved children, teens, and adults.

Several years later, I met and married Tom Kanoza, a widower with two young boys. Together, we became the real life, “Brady Bunch.” I knew from the moment I met Tom, that he shared my passion and was the male counterpart to God’s vision.

Our first grief support group was held at a church in 1997.  COJ has grown immensely and now exists throughout the community.  We host groups and events at schools, businesses, law enforcement offices, and healthcare settings.  While the roots of COJ were founded in faith, our branches welcome everyone from the young to the old; people from all backgrounds and those of all religions, identities, and affiliations, without exception. Grief does not discriminate and neither do we.

We operate out of a small office located in West Chester, Ohio.  It is our vision to one day have a bereavement center that we can call home.  A place where individuals and families can come at any stage in their grief and find hope, strength, healing, and love. For now, we must be patient as our Center is carried by totes to our many sites throughout the city.  We are grateful to and for each of our volunteers, sponsors, and everyone who provides us with a location to meet. Together, we are truly making a difference.

When WE lost our loved ones, it rattled us to our core, leaving us shaken, the future uncertain. But slowly, with time and the support of one another, we’re beginning to mend our wings and learning to fly again. And with our loved ones held closely in our hearts, our wings are growing back stronger than ever.

You see – we are COMPANIONS ON A JOURNEY. And make no mistake, TOGETHER, we will soar!

God Bless You,

Sheila Munafo-Kanoza
Founder and Executive Director