GriefShare, other programs help people deal with loss
Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2021
By SCOTT MIMS | Special to the Reporter
ALABASTER – Everyone deals with loss at some point in their lives. A death in the family or the loss of a close loved one usually becomes more emphasized around the holidays and throughout the winter months. As people spend more time indoors and gather around the table for family celebrations, the sight of an empty chair can intensify the pain caused by grief.
Thankfully, there are programs available to help people deal with loss. GriefShare is a biblically-based grief support group hosted by multiple churches in the Shelby County area, including Amazing Grace Church in Alabaster. Amazing Grace will begin its next 13-week GriefShare program on Sunday, Jan. 9 meeting each Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the church.
“This program is designed to help you walk through the grief journey. It helps you process and helps you to cope with grief,” said Keith Blackburn, Care Pastor at Amazing Grace Church. “Grief will kill you if you let it, so it gives you steps and ways of coping with it.”
Blackburn is no stranger to loss. He has dealt with the loss of a wife, three children and his parents. Blackburn went through GriefShare at a different location and was instrumental in starting the group at Amazing Grace about two years ago.
While the term “new normal” has been thrown around a lot in terms of post-pandemic life, the term also applies when dealing with grief, Blackburn said.
“It can be a difficult, difficult situation that you’re in when you do lose someone, and when you’ve lost your children that’s extremely hard because you blame yourself,” he shared. “You question yourself, ‘Is there something I could have done differently?’”
GriefShare seeks to help people stop the vicious cycle of self-blame and the resulting guilt that people often feel during the first few months and years after a loss. Blackburn agreed that the holidays and special days like birthdays and anniversaries tend to be more difficult for those experiencing grief.
“It depends on the newness of the loss,” he explained. “If it’s anywhere from the first to the fifth year, you have to learn to go through the holidays by yourself basically. Of course you may have family, you have friends, but it’s hard to sit at the dinner table; it’s hard to sit around the Christmas tree and laugh and have a good time when you know that person is no longer with you.”
GriefShare is open to anyone who wishes to participate, not just church members. The ages of the group have ranged from 18 to 70 and over. People may join at any time during the 13-week session.
To register, visit GriefShare.org and enter your local zip code for a listing of churches and organizations hosting a support group. Blackburn may be reached at 205-664-8484 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. While there is no mandatory cost to participate, a $20 love offering is suggested to those who join.
For those who may be seeking answers outside of the church, there are other ways to find support, such as the Wings Across Alabama “warm line” (as opposed to a hotline), which is not for emergencies but for people who just need someone to talk to, at 1-844-999-4647 or WingsAcrossAl.org. The line is open Monday through Friday from 2-8 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday from 3-8 p.m.
Lindsey Stephenson, clinical director at Central Alabama Wellness, said grief is not the only reason people tend to feel down during the winter months. Grief is part of a wider range of factors that can affect an individual’s mental health. There is a condition called “major depressive order with a seasonal pattern” that can rear its head.
“It’s an actual and well-documented and treated phenomenon that the weather changing can affect your mood negatively,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson also has some advice for people who might be concerned for a loved one who is either experiencing grief or perhaps suffering from depression or another mental health disorder.
“The best thing you can do is reach out, because if you wait for your loved one to reach out to you, depression takes a lot of extra energy, so they likely won’t have the wherewithal to say, ‘Hey, I need something,’” she said.
She added it’s important to identify a need and offer help, not putting them in a position to have to accept the help but taking initiative. For example, instead of asking, “Do you want me to bring you a meal?” say, “What day is good for me to bring you a meal?”
More resources may be found at the aforementioned numbers or by contacting Central Alabama Wellness at 205-651-0077.