Nineteen months ago, Tamie Rodgers endured the loss of her husband to a brain tumor. She and her husband had moved to Oakdale with their two children from the Midwest to be closer to family. Her husband died six months after the relocation; he had managed the brain tumor for six-and-a-half years.
A member of River Oak Grace, her church family rallied around her. Now Rodgers is bringing help and hope to others who’ve lost a loved one by starting up a biblically-based grief support program in Oakdale.
While she had support from members of her congregation during her time of grief, she still had a need to connect. Her cousin had told her about a program called GriefShare, but the closest offering was in Modesto and she didn’t have time to attend with the responsibilities of her children. Rodgers said that there were other grief groups, but none that had the biblical component. She said that she didn’t want anyone else to suffer alone and now GriefShare will be offered in Oakdale.
“I am a young widow, who after losing my husband, found out that our community was in need of something like this so I asked my pastor if we could start it up and together we have been able to make it work,” she explained.
She added that she wished there had been a scripturally based program in which she could have participated. By starting up GriefShare locally, she’s been able to work through even more of her own grief.
“It’s helped me to know I’m not alone,” she said. “There are others out there just like me and it’s reinforced the fact that God will never leave me and He loves me… It’s helpful. It heals you to help others.”
The program is a weekly seminar for any adult who is grieving the loss of a spouse, child, or other loved one. It is DVD driven that features interviews with leading authors, counselors, speakers and pastors who have expertise in grief recovery. There is time for discussion at the end of each session and it is set up so that a person can attend at any point during the series. The full series runs for 13 weeks. It is non-denominational and is open to any member of the community.
“It gives you a place where you can grieve with others who really understand you,” Rodgers said.
She offered that some of the topics covered are what do with wedding rings, the deceased’s clothes, if it’s okay to cry, if it’s important to be strong, how long grief lasts, heaven, and more.
“I found out that we all grieve differently and it’s all acceptable,” Rodgers said.
She explained the process to get the program up and running started by taking a group of people interested in being facilitators and training them. Five participants all went through the program training and they were joined by two recent widows.
One of them was Oakdale resident Christina Carmelich, who lost her husband less than a year ago.
“Involvement with GriefShare began because of my tragic loss of Larry, my best friend in this life,” she said. “We had been married for 43 years. He was my lifeblood, right after God.”
Carmelich said that she was talking with her neighbor one day and discovered she was involved in learning leadership skills for GriefShare. Carmelich attended a program training with her neighbor and continued through the series.
“With my grief so fresh, I journeyed through pain, but (was) fully involved,” she said. “There were wonderful videos to view of people who had already traveled through grief for several years. Afterwards, there was personal sharing, by choice, by those around talking about their own journey through grief.”
Rodgers noted that in the U.S., people only get a few days of bereavement pay and have to return to work shortly after but in other countries people wear black and are given time to go through a period of mourning.
She said that the program meets people where they’re at in their grief. People can be grieving the death of a loved one years later and still need to attend a support group. The program can also help people who’ve had a more recent loss. GriefShare, Rodgers said, offers support and individuals have time to bond in the sessions and talk about their feelings, if they wish, from week to week.
“It was extremely helpful in the sense of when I went through certain feelings, I had been forewarned, so it was a little less fearful to experience,” Carmelich said. “Grief is very painful and should not ever be done alone. When we travel this painful journey alone we will often times isolate ourselves and that is the worst choice we can make. It is important to walk with support and ‘GriefShare’ with others who are grieving gives more understanding.”
GriefShare will be offered at River Oak Grace Community Church, 7712 Rodden Road, on the corner of Highway 120.
There will be two different GriefShare groups offered each week, a morning session or evening session, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 15 and Thursday, Sept. 17. Tuesday sessions will be in the mornings from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. in room 206 at the church and will be facilitated by Rodgers. Thursday sessions will be held in the evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in room 401 at the church and will be facilitated by Paula Brightman.
The only cost is $15 for the workbook, but scholarships are available.
Contact Tamie Rodgers for more information or to sign up for the class at 985-0541, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.