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Grief’s journey, ‘road signs’ reviewed by workshop leader

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–“Grief is not an enemy,” minister, teacher and writer Richard Gilbert told a Community Grief Support Service workshop Nov. 14 in Birmingham, Ala.
“You don’t get over grief, but you do heal.”
The people who attended the meeting were diverse -­ men, women and even children, all from different walks of life. But each had one thing in common: Each person was preparing to face the holiday season without a loved one. Though painful for some, it was a chance for them to learn how to deal with their losses over the holiday season.
In the workshop, Gilbert noted that people experiencing a loved one’s loss have come on a different road to the same place — the journey called grief and the journey called facing the holidays.
“The holidays are all about rituals … glaring, dramatic reminders that somebody isn’t going to be here this year,” Gilbert said. For many of the participants for whom this season will be the first without their spouse, parent or child, they may have more fear than joy, he said.
Attendees were encouraged not to follow all of the holiday traditions of the past, especially if they seem too hard to handle. “If you usually send 200 cards, it’s OK to send four or five,” Gilbert said. The emphasis should be on making the holiday season what you want it to be.
“Don’t set yourself up to say this is going to be the most spectacular Christmas ever,” Gilbert cautioned.
Though the workshop was designed to deal with the holidays, Gilbert gave the participants information on the journey of grief. The journey is marked by road signs, he said. Some of the road signs are:
— Road closed. “We have come to the end of a road,” Gilbert said. Each person dealing with grief must realize their life has changed.
— Pedestrian crossing. By this, Gilbert said, people must “find a way to cross through some feelings.”
— Stop. People dealing with grief must take time out and realize when they are doing more than they can handle. This is especially true during the holidays when plans can seem overwhelming.
— Exit. “There are no exit signs,” Gilbert said. There are no shortcuts to healing after a loved one dies. Sometimes it may help, however, to exit from conversations, books or even support groups that are too hard to deal with at any given time.
At the workshop’s conclusion, the group had a candlelighting time. Participants were encouraged to have a similar candlelighting during the holidays, in order to include the lost loved one in the celebration. Five candles representing grief, courage, memory, love and hope, are lit, not in memory of death, but in celebration of the life that was shared.
The conference was sponsored by the Community Grief Support Service, a nonprofit organization to help the bereaved in the Birmingham, Ala., area. For more information on the organization, call (205) 870-8667.

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  • Carla Lahey