For Allison Daily, grief is her calling
When local residents lose a loved one, Allison Daily is one of the first people they call.
Her specialty is helping people navigate through the stages of the grieving process, something she has experienced herself. Daily was mired in grief after one of her brothers, Rod Snyder, took his life in 1990. It was a lonely time for her.
“When I lost my brother, I didn’t have anybody that showed up for me,” she said. “For me, I can show up for people. I can be there with them in that space. I’m not afraid of that space. I don’t have to talk, but I can really be present in their darkest hours.”
Over the years, the Aspen community has lost numerous residents to untimely deaths. The Aspen Times family experienced it firsthand, twice in 2014, with the deaths of beloved co-workers Stewart Oksenhorn and Gunilla Asher. Daily showed up to offer grief counseling to employees.
It’s not just in the days after a death that Daily is there to support those in mourning.
At the recent double-homicide trial of an El Jebel man, Daily was in an Eagle County courtroom lending her support to Jesse Lopez, whose parents were shot to death. Lopez, a teenager, testified about his recollections of the horrific night of July 12, 2014.
After he left the stand, Daily hugged him in a show of support. She spent time with the family in the days and months following the fatalities and has been a constant in their lives ever since.
“I am pretty much full time,” she said. “I have my phone on at all times.”
Daily provides grief counseling at Aspen Valley Hospital and is the director of the nonprofit Pathfinders, which originally focused on providing psychological support to cancer patients and the terminally ill as well as to their relatives.
The nonprofit organization has expanded its mission to help people during times of grief and loss, and victims and families impacted by any type of illness.
Daily, 50, started at Pathfinders as the coordinator of its meal program, later becoming a counselor. She earned her master’s degree in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica in August 2013, months after she became director of Pathfinders in May 2013.
In 2015, Pathfinders played host to the inaugural Foreverlove event, put on to offer hope to family and friends of lost loved ones who died prematurely. It was held again earlier this year.
“To me, the most important thing in grief counseling, the part I like, is moving on to honoring the person who died,” she said. “There’s a direction you’re going through, a process when you find ways to honor that person.”
Her job can daunting, Daily admits, but she views it as her calling.
She also is married to Art Daily, the longtime Aspen attorney who lost his second wife, Kathy, and sons Tanner, 10, and Shea, 6, when a boulder hit their car while they were driving through Interstate 70 in the Glenwood Canyon. Art was left unscathed.
Allison, who was divorced, wed Art some 18 months after the 1995 tragedy, leading to their collaboration on the memoir “Out of the Canyon,” which was published in 2009.
As Allison describes it, the book allowed the couple to “take (these) really horrible things and make something that we could give back to people, people who you aren’t able to have personal conversations with.”
The hard-working couple get their releases through traveling, bike-riding and yoga, among other pursuits. And, probably for the best, they wisely refrain from discussing Aspen politics, as Art is a member of the City Council.
Allison moved to Aspen in 1995, but she previously had spent summers in the area when her dad, David Snyder, was a tennis pro at the Snowmass Club.
Snyder, now retired, also was the men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas in Austin, where Daily grew up. Her father is enshrined in multiple halls of fame. For a time Daily followed her father’s footsteps as a tennis pro, but her time on the courts has waned because of knee issues. She is scheduled to undergo a knee-replacement surgery Nov. 9.
She also cites her mother’s influence on her as indelible.
“I grew up in a home where my mother was always making meals for other people,” she said. “We had an Alzheimer’s patient we took care of. It was always part of our lifestyle my mom brought us up in.”
Daily was raised in what she called “a very, very strong Christian household, and I still hold those beliefs close to my heart, and I’m very open to all other faiths. I love listening and hearing what other people believe.”
Art has a daughter, Piper, who is 46, from his first marriage. They have two sons, Burke, 18, and Rider, 19, who both attend college in California.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”