LEWISTOWN - There is comfort in knowing you're not alone.
That's the reason for GriefShare, a 13-week Christ-centered seminar and support group for people grieving the loss of a loved one. The group is sponsored and attended by people who understand the experience of a loss and want to offer encouragement.
The program will be in its second cycle this spring at Pine Glen CMA Church. Facilitator Chris Prough said it was "serendipitous" the way it came about.
"We were having a lot of loss in our church," she said. "It just seemed like we were losing member after member."
In the midst of the church's struggle, Prough was traveling in Florida and overheard a wife and a mother talking together about the losses of their spouse and son. They were talking about Griefshare.
"I just remember thinking, 'I need to remember this," Prough said.
It was shortly after that when she received a phone call that her friend, Deb Mitchell, had lost her husband.
The whole congregation was seeking the Lord, Prough said. There was a sense of urgency and a need for support.
The first cycle of GriefShare went over well. Prough said the group averaged 12 to 15 people each week, and about nine are looking forward to attending the second cycle too.
Each session of the program includes a video seminar and group discussion. Griefshare videos feature interviews with authors, counselors, speakers and pastors with expertise in grief recovery. Participants also receive a workbook with devotionals and weekly journals. Prough said the sessions are self-contained, so individuals may join at any time during the 13-week cycle, though Mitchell said it works best to attend every session.
"They don't build, but they all come together," she said.
Mitchell attended the first cycle of Griefshare less than a year after experiencing the loss of her husband. She said people can get stuck in grief and be unable to move past their loss. Griefshare is an opportunity to move through the pain and go forward.
"It gave me hope for a future," she said. "I didn't feel like this was the end of even me and my husband's relationship. Death isn't the end, it's the next step. My life isn't over. I still have a lot more living to do."
Rather than focusing on the "Why?" questions after a loss, Griefshare encourages participants to ask "What's next?" she said. And that's where healing starts to take place.
Griefshare caters to people experiencing all levels of grief. Prough said the loss doesn't have to be recent for individuals to benefit from the group.
"I want (participants) to be more connected with God" by the end of the program, she said, adding that the purpose of Griefshare is to take people from mourning to joy.
Though the group doesn't specify a particular target audience, Mitchell and Prough agreed that it's best suited for teenagers to adults.
"It forever changes you," Mitchell said.
Griefshare will be offered locally for the second time beginning April 5 at Pine Glen CMA Church, 1058 State Route 103 North, Lewistown. Group facilitators will be Chris Prough, Faith Widman and Angie Yoder. The ministry team will include Deb Mitchell and Jill Ammon. The group will meet from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. weekly on three Thursdays and 10 Fridays through June 28. There is no cost for attendance, but there is a suggested donation of $18 to cover the cost of the Griefshare workbook.
An informational and registration meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 25 at Pine Glen CMA Church. For more information, call Chris Prough at 821-6705 or the church at 899-7740.