“I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t had the GriefShare program to go to,” explained Karen Stevenson, a Corona del Mar resident. “It absolutely saved me when my husband passed. I was totally lost. It was my first time alone without someone in my life 24/7. First I’d had my parents and then I had my husband, Harry, for 29 years.”
Karen found the grief help that she so desperately needed when she attended a GriefShare program at Trinity Presbyterian in Santa Ana, where she met facilitator Judy Rand. Judy started GriefShare at Trinity about six years ago after losing her husband. Judy ultimately requested Karen to co-facilitate at Trinity.
“I went through it twice,” Karen said. “My head was in such a spin the first time around, that I knew I needed to go through it again. It was so helpful, and gave me so many great coping skills. When I think back to what I was like when Harry died, it’s amazing; I see such a difference today. Going through the program also reinforced my need for God and reminded me that He is always there to give me the help I need. God is now my 24/7 person; He’s my go-to person.”
Karen wanted to make that same help available to those in her own community, and recently began co-leading the GriefShare program with Judy at her local church, Newport Center United Methodist Church in Corona del Mar.
GriefShare Recovery Support Groups are offered throughout the US, Canada and in more than 10 other countries. The seminars and support groups are led by people who have experienced grief themselves, and therefore understand the many challenges of the grief process. GriefShare groups meet weekly to give specific help as well as emotional support helpful for navigating the journey of grief. Each session has three distinct elements: a video seminar, small group discussion and workbook-based personal study.
The videos are produced in a television magazine format featuring expert interviews, real-life case studies, and dramatic reenactments. After the video, group members spend time discussing what was presented in the video and are encouraged to share what is going on in their own lives. Participants have a workbook to use at home which encourages additional study, reflection and help sorting out emotions through journaling. Each week, group members spend time discussing questions and comments from the workbook study.
“The response has been great,” Karen said. “I tell people that it’s for everyone, you don’t have to be a Christian to come, but you will hear about God and Jesus. Everybody’s grief is unique but I encourage people to try at least two or three sessions to determine whether the program is for them. I found it incredibly helpful.”
When Karen approached Pastor Karl Stuckenberg with the idea of hosting GriefShare at their church, he readily agreed.
“I saw the impact the program had on Karen, and what a difference it made in her,” Karl said, “I realized that it would be a great thing to offer people. We’re not supposed to do life on our own; we need each other to go through the good times and the bad times together, to share the journey of life and the journey of loss together. And people who have experienced loss can benefit by being with others who understand it.”
“We’re a small church, and feel that this is a great way to say that our doors are open,” Karl continued. “This is something we are glad to offer the community, a great way to reach out. One of the many factors we liked about this program is that it’s something you can start anytime, and go in and out of if you need to, which is especially helpful for people who have such busy schedules.”
GriefShare is a 13-week curriculum, but participants are welcome to begin attending at any session. Each week is self-contained, and sessions don’t need to be attended in sequence. Topics covered include: Living with grief, the effects of grief, your family and grief, God’s prescription for grief, top twenty lessons of grief, and heaven.
GreifShare is specifically for people grieving the death of a loved one. It is not designed to meet grief needs associated with other painful life losses, such as separation and divorce, estrangement, loss of custody and job loss.
GriefShare is held at Newport Center United Methodist Church, 1601 Marguerite, CdM, on Sundays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. (excluding Easter). The cost is $15, which includes the workbook.