Kansas man uses hands-on approach
to help deal with grief
By Donetta Robben
Special to the Register
Kris Munsch, formerly of Saint Joseph Church in Hays, is a man who likes to “fix” things. He enjoys buying old homes – homes others might tear down. The challenge of making something “old” look “new” intrigued him, giving this business man a sense of control and power.
Yet on Dec. 23, 2005, Munsch’s house came crumbling down – the house he knew as his family – his identity as a man, and it all started with a phone call.
“Blake was in an accident tonight and did not make it,” the voice on the other end said. The news irrupted like a volcano inside Munsch.
Blake was Kris Munsch’s 16-year-son. As Munsch fell to his knees, barely able to breathe, he sensed this was something he could never repair. He sensed his loss of control, and he knew instantly that he needed something bigger than himself – he needed God.
The months and years that followed took Munsch on a roller coaster ride often questioning his own identity. He appeared rational and in control on the outside while feeling the chaos of insanity on the inside. One day his wife patiently said there were two people living in his home still needing him.
That was the beginning of getting back into the world again – a world Munsch admits he withdrew from.
Now, just four years later, Munsch is in the repair business again – this time helping others repair their broken lives after a crisis such as death. He’s created a step by step process – a blueprint called “The Birdhouse Project.”
“I am now convinced that all circumstances happen for a reason,” Munsch said. “I lost control of my life – stepped on the brakes so to speak, but now I’m at the steering wheel again ready to travel.”
“The Birdhouse Project,” was Munsch’s concept, and he sketched out the chapters, but it was a fellow teacher and friend, Jeff Fouquet, who helped flesh out the words to have meaning for the readers.
“The idea for this project came quickly, and everything – from Jeff’s help, the photos for the book, the design and packaging – it just all came together,” Munsch said, indicating how the Holy Spirit elegantly guided the entire process.
Munsch hopes what he learned through his grieving process will help others cope with theirs.
“The Birdhouse Project” enables those stuck in “crisis mode” to name the emotional pain. The names of the book’s chapters such as “Scattered,” “Realization,” “Transitions,” and “Regrets,” expose, in a single word, the anguish and sorrow a person can go through after a crisis. What Munsch wants to make certain people know is that they do not have to give up their identity, and there is hope.
“One of the worst things a person can do is mistake tragedy for identity,” Munsch said in his book. “I am the father who lost his son, but that in no way has taken away my abilities. I can be used in effective and powerful ways.”
Learning from his personal crisis, his regrets enabled him to become a “new person” in “new circumstances.”
“Every crisis has this same transformative power.”
Now a member of Sacred Heart Parish, Shawnee Mission, Kans., and an industrial arts instructor at Bonner Springs High School, Munsch takes a hands-on approach. “The Birdhouse Project” comes complete with pre-cut wood for others to dig inside themselves, label their sorrow, focus on their strengths and God-given talents as they build these emotions into the walls of a birdhouse.
“Once we pick up the pieces of our broken lives, we build a new future – a new normal,” Munsch said. “And when we do that we regain our strength and the sun begins to shine again.”
“The Birdhouse Project” can be found at www.soulreflect.net, the New Life Bookstore at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dodge City, at the Ness City Flower Shop, and at Pioneer Place in Laverne. OK.