Getting over the death of a loved one is never easy. Survivors are often swept into a slow, agonizing dance of trying to figure out what to do with a love that is lost.
Grief Share, a confidential, non-demoninational, Christian-based ministry, has been likened as a safety net for those whose worlds are literally falling apart. A new session began Feb. 4, and will continue to meet every Tuesday for the next 13 weeks.
"When you come to Grief Share, this is God's hospital where he spiritually heals you and puts you back together so that you can move forward. It is God's emergency room," said Ruthie Bailey, who has facilitated the outreach, community program at Country Oaks Baptist Church for the past 10 years. Bailey said that God has prepared her to serve on this ministry since she was 14 years old when she first started experiencing a lot of deaths of loved ones, including family, siblings and a child.
"Most of the people who come to group, I know their grief, and I have been on their journey. I can touch what they are feeling, and that helps me walk with them and understand with them what they are experiencing. I don't know their grief, because we all grieve differently, but I know their pain and I know their journey," said Bailey.
For the first 13-weeks of Grief Share, participants are provided with tools to assist them in getting through the most difficult period of their life. Each week, a video is shown on a different subject, with each subject independent and on its own and not contingent on the previous subjects. A group discussion follows the video, and participants are encouraged to talk, but never compelled to do so.
According to Loree Gracey, co-facilitator, the videos cover topics such as why it is best to not make major decisions too quickly following the death of a loved one.
"Everyone grieves differently, and you should never allow anyone to tell you that you should be over this or that you should be done," said Gracey, adding, "We never move on... we always move forward, and we allow the grief to happen. You can't make it happen, and you can't stop it from happening."
Gracey said it took her 22 years following "the incident" before her own personal grief began to take hold of her.
Said Gracey, "People are hurting, and they need someplace to be safe where they can cry, they can get mad and they can express their grief the way they need to. No one judges them. No one."
At first, alumni Tim McLaughlin said he was not motivated to attend group meetings after the sudden death of his wife who passed away after minor back surgery on Dec. 12, 2016.
Following her death, McLaughlin said, his pastor asked him to do three things: stay strong in his faith, attend Grief Share meetings and "don't make any stupid decisions."
"It doesn't matter if you go to church, or you don't go to church. Grief Share is for everyone," said McLaughlin.
Kim Koenig, who is another Grief Share alumni, said she still attends meetings on occasion, and is working toward becoming a facilitator.
"My husband passed away on Sept. 11, 2018, on our wedding anniversary after 41 years together," said Koenig, holding back her tears. "I have been sad in my world, but I had never experienced grief. I knew I needed to find Christian-based help. I did not understand what I was going through. I did not understand what my body was doing."
Koenig said the hardest thing she ever did was walk through the doors of her first Grief Share meeting. But she has not spent a minute of her time regretting doing so.
Said Koenig, "It is the most fabulous program, and it is so wonderful that God is preparing me to facilitate this program eventually. It is healing. It is life changing."
The 14th and final week, participants gather for a closing ceremony where everyone brings a dish for a potluck and a picture of their loved one should they wish to share it with the group.
Said Bailey, "We have a night of faith, food and fellowship."
Grief Share is an international ministry that is offered worldwide. It is open to anyone, and will continue to meet from 6 to 8 p.m. each Tuesday through May 5, at Country Oaks Baptist Church, 20915 Schout Rd. Enter the back dirt parking lot and follow the sign.
Participants are asked to sign a confidentiality form upon their first visit. For more information, call the church office at 822-1379.