WAYNESBURG – In his ministry as pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Waynesburg, Rev. Bill Sukolsky became conscious of the need to help those suffering from the loss of a loved one.
When he discovered GriefShare, a video seminar and discussion group that meets weekly at various locations throughout the nation, he thought he’d give it a try.
The first of the 13-week series of sessions began last September with an average of about 14 people in attendance. The sessions proved so successful, Rev. Sukolsky and a group of volunteers are starting another 13-week series that begins on Feb. 3 and concludes on April 28.
“GriefShare is designed for anyone suffering from grief because of the loss of a parent, child, spouse, friend or relative either recently or sometime in the past,” Rev. Sukolsky said. “I know people who’ve lost someone as long as 12 years ago and can’t stop thinking about the deceased. One of the things GriefShare points out is that people get stuck in grief. If you don’t get past your feeling of grief, you can’t function very well.”
The sessions are free of charge and begins at 6:15 p.m. in a meeting room at the church with the serving of refreshments. People sit in a circle and watch a 35-minute long video featuring top experts on grief and recovery that begins roughly at 7 p.m. The videos are produced in an interesting-to-watch, television magazine format featuring expert interviews, real-life case studies, dramatic reenactments and on-location video.
After viewing the video, participants spend time as a support group, discussing what was presented in that week’s video seminar and what is going on in their lives.
Each session is “self-contained,” so members do not have to attend in sequence. Participants will find encouragement and help whenever they begin and will be able to continue with GriefShare through the 13-week cycle. They’ll also be able to view any of the videos they haven’t seen. Participants will not be asked to talk if they prefer not to, and all of the discussions are completely voluntary.
“My role at the session is to keep the conversation going,” Rev. Sukolsky said. “Sometimes it’s easy to get off track, and my job is to serve as facilitator or moderator.”
Volunteers from the congregation sometimes serve as session moderators as well. Others make sure the snacks, beverages and desserts are ready, arrange the chairs and greet people as they come in the door.
Each participant is given a workbook in which to take notes. The book costs $15, and the church appreciates anyone able to cover the cost of their workbook. However, if someone can’t afford the cost of the book, the church will pick up the expense for them.
While between 12 and 15 participants came to the initial GriefShare series that started in September, Rev. Sukolsky said the sessions could handle as many as 25 to 30 people. If that many did show up, they would watch the video together, then break into smaller discussion groups.
“Although folks have walked into a session from out of the blue, it’s better if they phone ahead to register to give us an idea of how many refreshments and workbooks might be needed,” Rev Sukolsky said.
People are encouraged to attend the first couple of sessions to see what it is like. Keep in mind that each session stands alone and covers different topics each week such as the effects of grief, what to expect when your spouse dies and how children grieve and how to help them work through it.
GriefShare is a national, non-denominational ministry with groups all over the nation. It was founded by Dave and Nancy Guthrie of Nashville, Tennessee, who lost two of their three children due to a rare genetic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome. As they wrestled with their own grief and their Christian faith, they created GriefShare as a way of helping others.
“All of our presenters are Christians who believe that, ultimately, our healing from grief comes when we place our trust in Christ,” Rev. Sukolsky said.
“But even if someone does not profess to have a faith, there are still truths in GriefShare that will prove helpful to their lives and the healing process.”
The First Presbyterian Church, located at 300 N. Richhill Street in Waynesburg, is the only location where GriefShare is currently offered in Greene County, although some of the county’s hospitals and other organizations do offer grief counseling.
“GriefShare has been a profoundly powerful experience for many people,” Rev. Sukolsky said.
“The goal and intent of the ministry is to help people move on with their lives.”
For more information or to register, call the First Presbyterian Church in Waynesburg at 724-627-6006.