Trish Yerges
The La Grande Observer

An eight-week bereavement support group and educational series, Growing Through Grief, will be held on Thursdays from March 1 to April 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 1308 Washington Ave., La Grande.

The Growing Through Grief series is sponsored by Grande Ronde Hospital-
Hospice and facilitated by
Teresa Smith-Dixon, who took over conducting the bereavement group in 1993 from her predecessor, Karen Pricer.

“I revamped the group about 25 years ago,” Smith-Dixon said. “It’s always been about mutual support and education, teaching people about the mourning process and providing a place for people to find mutual support.”

The education provided to the group goes beyond simply surviving a loss, focusing on the process of growing through grief.

Smith-Dixon explained that the group meetings provide a context in which people learn to accept that death is part of the bigger picture of the human condition.

“There’s something about recognizing that we’re all connected,” Smith-Dixon said. “To understand what we’re going through, instead of just being a victim to it, helps us make choices about what we’re going to do about that pain.”

The Growing Through Grief series is a biannual program presented each spring and fall. It presents insightful information that empowers people to be a full participant in their healing rather than feeling helpless.

Smith-Dixon said that she creates the space, opens the door and then she stays flexible to whatever happens. Although she has a class outline of information to cover at each meeting, she allows the group discussion to develop naturally in order to meet everyone’s needs. Every group is different because of who is there, and she trusts that natural process completely.

To allow for needed discussions, this is the first time Smith-Dixon has extended the meeting from its prior 90-minute length to a 2-hour timeframe.

“After the series is over, people who have attended will tell me that they wish the rest of the world were like that group because they listened and understood them,” Smith-Dixon said. “People will say that they learned some skills or knowledge that will help them on their journey.”

Participants often build relationships at the meetings that continue to be a support for years to come.

As the series progresses, Smith-Dixon shows videos, and after the series concludes, she offers materials on loan from the Hospice library such as DVDs, videos and books that can be watched in the privacy of a person’s home.

Smith-Dixon said that over the past 25 years, the popularity of the Growing Through Grief group has been steady and strong. It continues to help people find their new identity and meaning in life after loss.

There is no enrollment fee, but pre-registration is required because attendance is limited to 12. Anyone wishing to attend should call 541-963-2273 or email Smith-Dixon at .