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Support and encouragement for your grief

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You need not be alone in facing the emotional journey of grief.

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Isolation during the pandemic has made the loss of a loved one even more difficult. GriefShare offers support, professional advice and concepts for healing. There is hope. Get the knowledge and assistance you need to help you navigate through your pain.

Donna Charters and Susan Fraser are co-facilitators of the GriefShare program in Tillsonburg, now offering its third 13-week session. It starts Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at Bethel Church, 269 Quarter Town Line, Tillsonburg.

“It’s a great program,” said Bethel Pentecostal Church pastor Sarabeth Strathdee, noting the co-facilitators “do really well at creating a safe place for people to express or learn what they’re going through and ‘talk it out.’”

“I’m going to learn a little bit as it goes,” said pastor Ryan Hutchins, who joined Bethel Pentecostal Church in Tillsonburg in May 2021. “I’m looking forward to that though.”

The local 13-week Griefshare program is offered in the spring and fall and it can be taken more than once. You can register at www.bethelpc.ca/griefshare or call Fraser 519-842-6728. All COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed including masking and social distancing in a large auditorium.

The need for GriefShare has not diminished since their first session in September 2020.

“Read the obituaries,” said Charters. “Unbelievable. The outreach even goes out a bit – it might have been a loss 10 years ago in the past and they have never dealt with it.

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“And I think Covid has had a major effect on people who have dealt with loss,” Charters added.

“Or they haven’t been able to visit their loved one when they passed in the hospital, and they couldn’t really have a funeral service,” said Fraser. “And many didn’t have family support because of Covid because they were locked in. We found that the last two times… people were pretty emotional when they came.”

Past participants included seniors, but also a couple younger individuals, Charters noted. They had about 15 in the first session, and about half of that in spring 2020. And people came from a wide area, said Fraser, including Simcoe, Delhi and Bayham.

GriefShare is a network of 15,000 churches worldwide equipped to offer grief recovery support groups. The program is biblically based and non-denominational, or for anyone of no belief system.

The weekly videos are encouraging and feature leading grief recovery experts. Small group discussions offer support from others on the same journey who understand the struggles of grief.

There is no charge for the program. However, the cost of the workbook is $20. The workbook reinforces the weekly session topics and helps you sort through your emotions and challenges.

“We have been delighted by the changes we have witnessed in our attendees due to the healing and hope they received,” said Fraser, recalling one group member who was encouraged to attend GriefShare due to severe depression. By the end of the 13-week session they were able to move forward in their life, planning a home renovation and several trips to visit family in the fall.

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“It is testimonies like this that encourage us to continue offering this program to our community. We see the results… we know the victory that they’re going to achieve by the end of the program.”

The success of the GriefShare program has been proven over and over, said Fraser. People are able to go through the journey of grief. They don’t forget their loved ones, but learn to cherish their memories and find purpose for their lives.

“I took the program twice with the loss of my husband,” said Charters, recalling when it was offered at First Baptist. “I think the big thing is reminding them, you never get over it. You keep going through it. I always remind them, if you never loved, you’d never hurt. You hurt so much because you loved that person so much.”

The idea is to give people the tools to move forward – to continue – said Fraser.

“Because you never forget,” said Fraser.

“But that last night when they walk away, they seem to have…” said Charters, “a joy of life.”

“It’s like a weight has been lifted off of them,” Fraser nodded. “They still have a lot to deal with, but we really encourage when they go forward to befriend a neighbour, take up a new hobby and invite somebody to try to reach out.”

cabbott@postmedia.com

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