Program emphasizes God’s love amid grief

Janet Hardy, above, was part of the pilot GriefShare program at St. Thomas More Church. The grief support group has helped her in the wake of her husband’s murder. (Photo by Ruby Thomas)

When Janet Hardy’s husband Timothy Hardy was shot and killed on Valentine’s Day four years ago, grief consumed her. She’s spent the years since attempting to work through the pain.

Hardy said she found various supports in dealing with her loss, but “GriefShare” — a relatively new grief support program sponsored by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Family Ministries Office — has made a real difference.

It’s taught her that God is present during grief and that it’s OK to experience joy and it’s OK to continue living.

GriefShare was piloted at St. Thomas More, 6105 S. Third St., in November and it’s now available for all parishes to adopt.

The archdiocese is offering to cover the cost of the program, said Denise Puckett, who serves as the family ser-vices project coordinator in the archdiocesan Office of Family Ministries.

Parishes or individuals will only be responsible for the cost of $15 workbooks.

The program is offered in 13-week sessions, which include a video seminar, group discussion and a personal workbook.

Sessions are led by an individual from the parish. Puckett pointed out that the individual doesn’t have to be an “expert” to lead the program.

“It’s very easy to do because it’s laid out for them. You don’t have to be an expert. It’s more a group support, where people learn from each other,” she said.

The pilot session at St. Thomas More started with two individuals and ended with 10, she said.

Hardy said during a recent interview that she felt part of a community from the first day she attended GriefShare at St. Thomas more.

“You feel so uplifted. And I’ve learned that it’s normal to grieve and that it’s OK to go on living. God wants you to go on living on earth,” she said.

Hardy said grief will always be present. She still regrets not getting the opportunity to give her husband the heart-shaped gingerbread cookies she’d baked for him that Valentine’s Day. Moments like that still make her sad, but GriefShare has helped her find space to be happy even in her grief.

“It’s OK to be happy and to laugh and if you see something and you tear up, it’s OK too. It’s OK to talk about grief, but still be happy,” she said.

GriefShare is rooted in Scripture and that has been a help, too, said Hardy. She was reminded that God knows of her grief.

“It teaches you — about trust — and though you’re hurting, you trust God and trust there’s a plan in all this,” she said.

Donna Sansone, who leads the program at St. Thomas More, said the scriptural aspects of the program are important, because individuals experiencing grief usually question God.

“It takes you back to the Bible. It talks to them about re-establishing a relationship with God,” said Sansone. “That is important because it’s where your strength is, relying on God to get you through it.”

GriefShare is also effective, said Sansone, because it takes participants through the progression of grief. That’s important, she noted, because some people never move on from grief.

“Grief is something that stays with us, but hopefully we can become healthy and learn to accept and live with the loss,” she said. 

GriefShare also emphasizes there is no “right way” to grieve, said Sansone. For instance, some individuals who are grieving feel conflicted about a timeframe within which they should give up their loved one’s belongings. There’s no right time, noted Sansone.

The discussion groups that are part of GriefShare allow grieving people to realize “everyone is going through the same thing and it takes the pressure off and allows them to see that what they are going through is normal,” said Sansone.

She urges individuals to volunteer to lead a GriefShare program at their parish.

“You just need to have an interest in helping people through grief,” she said, noting that she’s found “joy” in being there for those who are hurting.

Sansone added that individuals who serve on bereavement committees or who are already active helping to plan funerals in their parish might be a good fit for leading the program.

A new session begins today at St. Thomas More from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Parishes interested in learning more about offering GriefShare should contact Denise Puckett at 636-0296.

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