Merced County Times Newspaper
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‘Grief Share’ program helps those dealing with loss

The Grief Support Group at Atwater Baptist Church led by Pastor John Doty (far right) is a place where people suffering the death of a loved one can find comfort and hope.
The Grief Support Group at Atwater Baptist Church led by Pastor John Doty (far right) is a place where people suffering the death of a loved one can find comfort and hope.

Are you dealing with the loss of a loved one?

Sadly, many others are as well, but hope can be found through a weekly study and support group that meets at a local church to find comfort and a path forward.

Atwater Baptist Church, located at 2124 First Street in Atwater, is welcoming those suffering from the death of a loved one to a 1-1/2 hour Wednesday evening Grief Support Group which starts at 7 p.m. and is based on the Grief Share program.

The program consists of a video series, workbook, and time for sharing.

During an interview with the Times, Pastor John Doty, who has been the church’s pastor for two years, said, “We’re in our third week, and we are starting to build a sense of community.  Each session is self-contained.  People can come to all 13, or just one.  The theme of the program is ‘From mourning to joy’.”

Describing grief as a sensitive issue, he said, “It is one of those things that people feel uncomfortable with and don’t know how to address, and the people going through it are overwhelmed and need to know they’re not alone.”

People who attend the group discover that what they are experiencing after the death of a loved one is normal.

Pastor Doty explained, “At the first group meeting, we handed out a list of the many different ways people respond to grief, and there were 80 things — regression, isolation, anger, afraid of facing emotions.  One woman expressed that her blood pressure got high and she gained weight, and another woman didn’t eat and lost a lot of weight.”

Why was the support group developed?

Pastor Doty said, “A friend talked highly of a program called Grief Share and shared a few words about it in church about a year ago.  We had a few people who passed away, and they had no help that we knew of.

“Sometimes the church can miss key points because we’re so busy, and one of the quotes in the video is someone dies, you have a service, everyone comes over to your house and eats food, and that’s the last you hear.  It’s the follow up that’s missing.

“There’s a self-fulfilling prophecy connected with mourning — you get down and depressed and then no one wants to be around you.

“We are trying to help the congregation focus on doing a few good things.  And we all have in common that we are born and we die.  And we can go through it without hope or find people with knowledge who understand and care.”

What is Grief Share about?

The Grief Share program allows for people to process the loss of a loved one on an ongoing basis over time, which is a different approach than the concept of the five stages of grief.

Pastor Doty said, “Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s work in the 1970s was on the five stages of grief. But people do not go through one through five stages in order, and then they are done. It’s a process, and there’s a wound that is always there. Some are still processing the death of a husband or a parent that occurred 15 years ago.

“Grief Share is in its third revolution. It was started by a couple who lost children, and over time it has expanded to different groups in churches, and they’ve upgraded, improved and refined the materials.

“The program is a combination of a video seminar for 13 weeks where you listen and take notes and hear national speakers and clinical psychologists. You get a workbook and it has structured spaces for taking notes, and after the 45-minute video, we take a break and get some snacks and coffee and then we come back. We have a follow up and a sharing time, and we go over one helpful article per chapter and the daily readings.”

Comforting, appropriate passages from the Bible are part of the program, but according to Pastor Doty, Grief Share doesn’t “beat you over the head with Christianity because it’s also based in clinical psychology”.

Does going through the Grief Share program with a support group help?

The people who meet at Atwater Baptist Church are very supportive of each other, and they have only positive things to say about the group and how much better it is to go through this period of their lives with the help of others than alone.

Pastor Doty said, “People with a common need bond better. In our first night, we had a teenager who was very upset and after the sharing time, there was laughter as well as tears.”

For further information about the Grief Support Group led by Pastor Doty at Atwater Baptist Church which runs through Sept. 18, those interested can call 358-5425.

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