Regina LaVere and Veronica LaVere Davis

Regina LaVere, left, and her daughter Veronica LaVere Davis have attended GriefShare’s Surviving the Holidays seminar, and each uses what they have learned in the GriefShare program to help themselves and others.

Grief will drain cheer from the heart, but Greenwood’s GriefShare ministry hopes to help strengthen and support those suffering from loss with its Surviving the Holidays seminar Nov. 17.

The seminar will begin at 3 p.m. on the East Park Avenue campus of its sponsor,  Westminster Presbyterian Church. Participants will watch a video providing “tools to help you survive the holidays,” said Kim Pillow, organizer. After its presentation, those attending will break into groups categorized by loss of a spouse, loss of a child or loss of a parent, sibling or friend.

All in need will be welcomed at no charge and provided with “a devotional book, free, to take you through the holidays,” Pillow said.

The church began providing GriefShare in 2010, and in some years, depending on need, has offered a course meeting on Sunday afternoons for 13 weeks.

Pillow described the ministry as a “non-denominational, Christ-centered grief recovery support group.”

Some who attend have been grieving a short time, and others have carried the burden for years. The sessions are designed to help people recover.

It’s no secret that Thanksgiving and Christmas can be hard on those whose life has changed by loss. “The holidays are most difficult because the person you love is not there,” Pillow observed.

Candace Thompson is one of the people GriefShare participation helped after the death of her sister. Thompson later wrote the church. She described her group as a family. During that time, she at first couldn’t speak, and she cried “all the time.” But as she grew stronger, she began to see the ministry as God-sent. She learned how sharing expressions of  “some of my most uncomfortable feelings” with others who were suffering in similar ways opens pathways to recovery.

Linda Lary, whose 27-year-old son Michael died right before Christmas in 2016, said, “GriefShare saved my life.” She took the 13-week course in 2017 and then attended the holiday seminar before the first anniversary of his death. “It helped me so much,” she said.

“When Michael died, it felt like somebody took a biscuit cutter and cut my heart out physically. It was distinctly in the middle of my heart,” Lary said.

At GriefShare, participants agree to respect each other’s privacy by promising not to tell others about who was there and what they said. Also, all feelings are considered valid. “GriefShare allowed me to say anything I wanted without fear,” Lary said.

Other participants also felt safe.

 “I learned that when you help others who are grieving, it helps you grieve,” she said.

Veronica LaVere Davis and Regina LaVere participated in GriefShare in 2017, a year after losing Davis’  father and LaVere’s husband, Steve. Davis met with the group dealing with the loss of a parent, sibling or friend.

Her group was composed “mostly of people who had lost their parents,” she said. “A year had passed, so it was kind of like reliving those moments and that part of the grief,” she explained. “But I knew it would help me get through the stages of grief.”

She also found “a community of people who have gone through the same thing you are going through.” Sometimes they run into each other around town, and every so often, a few tears are shed.

Davis said learned that “everyone grieves in their own time and how important it is that you not be swayed by other people’s opinions of when you grieve.”

The Surviving the Holidays seminar is especially timely, she said: “Coming through the holidays is hard, especially when you lose a relative during the holidays.”

People with questions are invited to call the church if they want. The telephone number is 453-7608, and the church is located at 804 E. Park Ave. For more on the nationwide GriefShare holiday program, access griefshare.org/holidays.

Contact Susan Montgomery at 581-7233 or smontgomery@gwcommonwealth.com.

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