All over the globe, Griefshare is providing support in critical times for those who are experiencing grief due to the death of a loved one. There are thousands of groups meeting and there are many located right here in Palm Beach County. From St. Ignatius in Palm Beach Gardens, to Family Church Downtown in West Palm Beach to First Baptist Church in Tequesta, Griefshare is there to help.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn… Ecclesiastes 3:4
Though we have eternal hope as Christians, and we know that our time here is a temporary pilgrimage, the loss of a loved one, through a myriad of circumstances, is one of the hardest of life’s burdens to bear. When my own brother, Clark, took his last breath at 12:52 pm on Saturday September 11, 2021 at Palm Beach Gardens hospital, the sky was blue and the birds were singing. But what followed for me was a watershed of tears, a haze that wouldn’t lift for over 6 months and a numb feeling coupled with various new emotions that I hadn’t ever experienced before.
I landed at Griefshare at St. Ignatius on Thursday evenings, then took the 12 week program again at St. Jude’s in Tequesta on Friday mornings, to balance my overwhelming confusion. It was new territory for me–this loss. I found gentle support, a safe space and a weekly curriculum that includes a scripture based, compassionately presented video and workbook, along with sharing time.
The workbook helps support the connection during the week with the same gentle focus on scripture, and real life stories that the video comprises. In the group, sometimes people connect immediately, other times it’s just a glance of compassion, and still others make lifelong friends; each circumstance is tailor made by the Holy Spirit working through each gathering. Tears are welcome.
As I continued on in the group, laughter was not uncommon weeks down the road, though it wasn’t something most who attend their first meeting can imagine. Topics such as loneliness, fear, guilt, regret, as well as new hope, peace and joy are addressed carefully and lovingly. Each weekly video sparks conversation, hugs, tears and understanding.
…darkness will be like morning. You will be secure, for there is hope; Job 11:17b-18
I would come home and expect him to be in the chair.
For Alison of Jupiter, Griefshare was a lifeline when she lost her husband unexpectedly. “You take an oath and things are kept confidential. I liked that.” As she was learning to move through her grief, she found herself wanting to move things out and change things as quickly as possible in her surroundings. “I would come home and expect him to be in the chair.”
Some attendees didn’t want to move a thing. Not for a long, long time. She was encouraged to grieve the way she needed to. “Hearing stories similar to mine helped me. We were all in the same boat.”
Others are given the same support and care Alison received. There is no right way to grieve, but Griefshare offers suggestions for healthy grieving so life doesn’t spiral further down. The program doesn’t advocate that healing will be complete in the 12 week length of the program, but rather provides critical support, a routine and prayer during the process. People can join right after a loss or at another time in their life, to help process their grief.
Facilitators guide each meeting and validate each person in attendance. Deacon Les Loh of St. Jude’s in Tequesta facilitates the Friday morning 10AM group. People sit in a circle, a spirit of warmth and kindness enveloping the space. Coffee, tea and snacks are set out in advance in the hall and a break is offered amidst the halfway mark.
Deacon Les, who carries a gentle demeanor and a patient spirit, carefully and prayerfully addresses the topics in the workbook and
video. At the same time he allows the participants freedom to express what is happening within them at the moment. Sharing is optional. When asked if he ever saw himself being part of a grief support group as a facilitator, Deacon Les, an educated professional, expressed it was never in his plans, but found himself there by God’s design. I can personally say he has a true gift for the task.
Grief can move a person to just need to be somewhere safe. Griefshare can be an extremely good place for that. As the group progresses, small milestones are celebrated, such as going out shopping, or to an event for the first time in a long time after the passing. It’s not unusual for the milestone to be finally getting in touch with feelings. No pressure is placed on anyone, but the intensity of emotions are lessened with the loving support of the volunteers. Participants are allowed space to do things such as read from their journals, share impromptu, bring photos or simply share their silence.
Nicole from West Palm Beach lost her best friend in a tragic circumstance. Two weeks later she lost another good friend. None of it was expected. She found herself connected with a Bible study teacher who was the facilitator for the Griefshare at Family Church in West Palm Beach. Nicole said of the group, “It helps you express your feelings and get healing.”
The deep engagement of each topic in the video, filled with real life people sharing their personal journey and the hope that lies ahead that joy will return one day, allow for real life issues to be addressed. In my personal grief journey, I had many mixed feelings that were unexpected regarding the loss of my brother. The program gave me a focus, while not being confining. All I needed to do was show up for the group. Whether I felt put together or not, whether I had participated in the workbook’s homework or not, Griefshare allowed me to come as I was and focus on what was going on deep inside.
I learned so much about Christ’s love and His promises for me in a new way, as I went through my grief experience.
By the program’s end I had signed up for a few piano lessons to learn to play a song I wrote about my journey to his passing. It has a beautiful redeeming ending, and it gives me joy. Without the support and care of Griefshare, that song would be stuck somewhere inside me. By God’s design, Griefshare offers a safe, nurturing and grounding place to breathe through our grief.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5
I learned so much about Christ’s love and His promises for me in a new way, as I went through my grief experience. The Holy Spirit used the program to guide me to that awareness. I have matured in my walk from this loss, and now can guide others to Griefshare so they may experience the same love and support in a critical time.
When Nicole was asked if she thinks the international Griefshare program is God inspired, she quite simply said, “Yes.” Alison says, “I think it’s an amazing program. I hope it continues.” A year later Nicole is a vibrant, active woman who holds many joyful memories of her friends in her heart. She speaks of them often with a smile in her eyes. Alison has found a new place of residence on the water, as she hoped. She travels, laughs and attends church while still holding space for her tears. Both are allowing God to continue to hold them close on their journey with gratitude in their heart
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Luke 6:21
If you, or someone you know, has experienced the loss of a loved one and would like more information or, if you’d like to learn how to start a Griefshare group, or to volunteer, please go online or call:
St. Ignatius, Palm Beach Gardens (561) 622-2565
Family Church Downtown (561) 650-7400
St Jude’s, Tequesta (561) 746-7974
Calvary Jupiter (561) 747-6367
First Baptist Church Tequesta (561) 746-4447
First United Methodist Church Jupiter (561)746-8116
Please check the Griefshare website, as there may be more groups than those listed.