Home Opinion Columnists Jeff Petersen's columns Grief group provides support
Grief group provides support
A lot of water runs under the Mill Creek bridge in Cove in five years.
And a lot of memories come flooding back when I think of that day, Sept. 22, 2007, when my first wife, Tina, died at OHSU in Portland. She was 48 and had made a valiant fight with two autoimmune illnesses, inner ear disease piled on top of 46 years of diabetes.
Tina had been a 4-H leader, a reporter at The Observer, president of the local humane association — a person who gave extraordinary energy back to the community. More than that, she was the heart and soul of my life.
As fall turned to winter, the dark waters of grief soon swept me away. The next year went by in a blur, with one life preserver thrown out the next spring — the Growing Through Grief support group.
For people who have experienced a loss through death or are supporting someone in a time of grief, the group meets every spring for eight weekly sessions.
This year, the group is meeting Thursday afternoons from March 7 to April 25.
According to organizers, people will learn about the grieving process, and it is a process. Some people start to emerge from the tunnel in months. Other people take years. No two people react to grief the same. The important thing is to not avoid grief or bury emotions but to process them and, even for rough, tough he-men, to cry when tears demand.
The group is also about sharing experiences. You learn that you are not alone in facing these heart-wrenching emotions. Some people have lost partners of 50 years through natural causes. Others have lost loved ones after valiant fights against cancer. Others have lost loved ones in tragic, sudden accidents.
Regardless of the situations, each of us needs tools to cope. The group provides a tool chest to use as you help yourself and others cope with loss.
By the time I joined the group, I had a half year of grief under my belt. I had ordered five books on Amazon.com covering the gamut, and had gained some useful tools. Mostly I had been busy getting my life back in order, making sure I could pay the bills and stay in my home and coming out of the fog at work, no longer just going through the motions but once again caring, and caring deeply.
Some people in the group had more time since the death of their loved one. Others had less. Whatever, these people proved a godsend. For example, one woman helped me set up a special birthday celebration on the first birthday I was apart from Tina.
Coming out of grief, there are a series of firsts. First anniversary alone. First birthday alone. First Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. All are challenging.
Nobody should go into these firsts alone.
It helped me to see the people in the group and how they were coping, or not coping, with grief. Sometimes the discussions were painful. But with each other’s help, we managed to get our heads up as the dark waters of grief swirled around us and gain hope for a brighter future.