GriefShare – A Community of Hope through Despair. A Place of Beauty for Ashes.
by Brent Johnston
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Following a funeral when the flowers fade, friends stop calling and sympathy cards are no longer found in the mailbox, the grief and mourning process can make one feel alone. Willam Shakespeare once wrote, “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”
First Baptist Jackson provides a grief counseling ministry called GriefShare through Summit Counseling. GriefShare is a thirteen-week grief support group which brings help and encouragement following the death of a loved one – spouse, child, sibling, family member or friend.
There is nothing in this world that can prepare us for the crushing news that a loved one has been lost to a sudden, tragic death. In the cases of long, drawn-out illnesses, the loss of a family member or close friend may also bring with it waves of emotions and uncertainty. This is where the GriefShare ministry and counselors gently come alongside those experiencing the devastating loss of someone close to them.
Lisa Sorey, former schoolteacher and librarian who is now a practicing LPC and GriefShare Counselor at First Baptist Jackson, says, “When you lose a loved one, you will always miss them. Our human side wants to be with them even if we know that person is saved and is in Heaven.” Scripture teaches us in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Healing is a process that only the Lord can properly direct through the Holy Spirit and with the help of the Body of Christ.
With this biblical framework in mind, GriefShare provides a safe, healing environment led by caring GriefShare counselors who have similarly experienced grief. GriefShare helps foster trust by creating a setting where others in the group can share their hurt together and receive biblical guidance on the long path of healing. Many of those who are grieving are also seeking to find hope for the future. GriefShare is based on the Word of God, and group members are reminded that they can go to God’s Word and find comfort in His truth.
Josh Haycraft, Licensed MFT Associate, facilitates the GriefShare support group with Ms. Sorey. Josh and Lisa have led the GriefShare groups for several years at First Baptist Jackson.
Like others involved in the GriefShare program, Josh has seen his share of death and suffering including the death of a friend, family member, and fellow service member.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Josh began volunteering as an EMT-basic for a local volunteer fire department and later worked full time as a paramedic in Jackson.
“I frequently encountered death, dying, and grief beginning at a relatively young age. I learned to accept that with life comes death, and even though there are unique experiences, there are common behaviors that are expressed as a result of the grieving process,” recounts Josh.
In today’s culture of communication, most of us have been introduced to those common behaviors and the five stages of grief, which are typically known as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Though no one person responds to grief in quite the same manner, it is clear that there are many emotional stops in the linear timeline of grief. For some, healing may be the journey of a lifetime. For others, the pain may subside until the holidays arrive or until the anniversary of a date that reminds the grieving person of their loved one.
As a GriefShare counselor, Lisa is also acquainted with grief as a result of the death of loved ones she has lost. Lisa will share with others that GriefShare has personally assisted in her healing process. “Because grief can cause people to turn away from God, GriefShare creates a structure where individuals may come back to God if they have pulled away,” says Lisa. GriefShare provides access to biblically-based resources to help people recover from their loss with the long-term goal of rebuilding their lives.
When GriefShare leader Josh Haycraft was deployed to Iraq twice as a medic with the 155th BCT, he was exposed to deep human suffering. Josh reflects, “On February 3rd, 2005, after being in Iraq for two days, a well-respected member of our unit was killed in action. A little over four months later two more men suffered the same fate. My experiences of loss and my personal grief journey have allowed me to become more
in tune to the members of our GriefShare group.” Regardless of our station in life or the circumstances of our loss, the death of a loved one will take time to process.
Lisa says, “I always want to see someone come to know Christ if they are not saved. Last semester we had someone attend the group who had moved here from out of state. God was not on his horizon. We really wanted to lead him to Christ, but we were able to plant some seeds. And he wrote us a really sweet note.” Lisa tells of another member who contacted her after the group had ended. This gentleman was going through a very rough time. He had been in Sunday School and had been in church, but he had turned his back on God. The man told Lisa that he pulled his workbook out and pointed to specific passages in the Bible that were helping him not give up.
GriefShare is for those who are stuck in their grief, those who may not be able to move forward because of bitterness and unforgiveness or those who may not even want to get out of bed. According to GriefShare counselors, any progress is good progress with this program, and the common result for attendees is a rewarding experience in the midst of the most difficult of times.
The GriefShare program consists of three key components. The first component is a video seminar that offers encouraging information, stories and tools for those who are grieving along with invaluable teaching from leading grief recovery experts. A helpful benefit of GriefShare is that all weekly lessons are self-contained. If for some reason, a group member is not able to view the video or attend a weekly session, he or she will be able to jump back into the material without feeling behind.
As GriefShare facilitators, Josh and Lisa want to make people feel at home. The video portion of GriefShare stresses inclusiveness in the group and is multi-cultural and multi-generational in nature. GriefShare hosts a wide variety of people from many walks of life. Some attend church. Some do not have a church home. If a GriefShare support group attendee is unable to be present for a weekly session, the GriefShare leaders will even arrange for that person to schedule a different time to come and view the video.
The second component of GriefShare is the support group setting where small group discussion is centered on the content of the video and where group members can openly share their thoughts with others who are experiencing similar emotions. The third component is the workbook, which provides personal study exercises that support the topics of that particular weekly session. The workbook also involves journaling to encourage group members to sort through their emotions. Each session in the workbook delves into the grief process and provides opportunities for personal reflection.
Care Cards are also included in the workbook. GriefShare members are encouraged to tear out the perforated Care Cards for words of encouragement throughout difficult times in their day. Group participants are able to receive free daily uplifting email messages 365 days a year designed to help guide members through the healing process. Another strength of GriefShare is relationship building. Because of the GriefShare support group model, members are able to see and understand that they are not going through the grief process alone – that there are others who are experiencing this too. GriefShare is open to anyone who has lost a loved one.
At the end of their session, Josh and Lisa look up from their group-leader chairs. As they simultaneously catch the eye of a GriefShare support group member sitting across from them, they see something in her eyes. Something that words can scarcely describe. Josh and Lisa witness a glimmer of hope in the tearful eyes of this woman who lost her husband to a terminal illness. And that is what drives these GriefShare counselors to do what they do year in and year out.
To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness.
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no longer be any death. There will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
GriefShare is a network of 15,000+ churches worldwide equipped to offer grief support groups. The program is nondenominational and features biblical concepts for healing through grief.
To register for GriefShare or for more information, call the First Baptist Jackson
Counseling Ministry at 601.949.1949. Next group starts Tuesday, August 21. The cost for the program is a one-time fee of $25.00. Groups are limited to 15 people.
Weekly Grief Support Group
Tuesdays 6:00 – 7:30 pm
August 21 – November 27, 2018
Christian Life Center of
First Baptist Jackson
(Arts & Crafts Room #2)
GriefShare Weekly Seminar Topics
Is This Normal?
Challenges of Grief
The Journey of Grief – Part One
The Journey of Grief – Part Two
Grief and Relationships
Guilt and Anger
Lessons of Grief – Part One
Lessons of Grief – Part Two
What Do I Live for Now?
Sponsored by: Summit Counseling of First Baptist Jackson
Josh is from a small town called Harrisville and has been married for 16 years to Heather. They have three daughters, Christa, Jada, and Journee. They live outside of Flowood and are members of Pinelake church. Josh studied at Hinds Community College and the University of Mississippi Medical Center and became a paramedic. A decade later he completed his undergraduate degree in psychology followed by a masters degree in Marriage and Family therapy, both from Northcentral University. Josh works full time for the Mississippi Army National Guard during the day and at Summit Counseling in the evening. His counseling training and focus is with Marriage and Families, but he also enjoys working with individual clients as well.
Lisa is a native Jacksonian, but currently resides in Terry with her husband Adrian. They have lived in Jackson, Michigan, Olive Branch, MS, Byram and Terry, MS. They have two children who are both married and one grandbaby. Lisa received a bachelor’s degree and her first master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi with an additional master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling from Mississippi College. She was a teacher and school library media specialist for a combined 23 years. Lisa has been a therapist for 3 years. She enjoys working with children, youth and college age students, but it is especially rewarding for her to work with women who have problems with self-esteem, relationships, communication, anxiety, depression and many other issues.