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By Lou Marzeles

Grief Share program has its own loss


February 13, 2019

When the Spring 2019 Grief Share sessions begin Feb. 21, the group will have to deal with a dark irony—but, knowing the group and what it can do, that should be doable. The Sentinel interviewed two past participants of the Grief Share program, Ann Stenbom and James Battison, for this story. The day after she came into the Sentinel office, Stenbom suddenly died.

The program facilitator, Laura Rooke, called soon after with the news. “We’ll be practicing what we work on,” she shared.

Grief Share is subtitled “Your Journey from Mourning to Joy,” a seemingly tall order for those working through the death of a loved one. It’s “help and encouragement after the death of a spouse, child, family member, or friend,” the flyer says. The Goldendale series starts next Thursday, Feb. 21, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be held those hours every Thursday until May 16. People can come to all of events or any individual ones; each is self-contained. Meetings will be at the Columbus Avenue Baptist Church at 815 N. Columbus Avenue in Goldendale. You can register at or call 773-1959 for more information.

During her visit to The Sentinel, Stenbom shared what the program did for her. “About a year and a half ago I lost my husband,” she said. “He had cancer. I thought I had it all dealt with. Wrong. I sat for close to a year and realized I was terribly depressed. I was talking with my sister, who has a husband who had Alzheimer’s disease, and she said, ‘You need to find a support group.’ And there was a story in The Sentinel [about Grief Share]. I went through it the first time, and I got something out of it. But I went through a second time—that was the big one.”

Rooke says some people do repeat the program—it’s held twice a year—with greater value each time. The series consists of videos overseen by a variety of psychologists, including professors of psychology at prestigious universities, and clinical counselors, along with a number of church authorities, although the program does not claim a religious affiliation or require one of participants. Each evening the group watches a video, then discusses the topic and shares what’s going on with them in relation to that.

“We have about 40 different topics that we go through in the 13 weeks [of the program],” says Rooke. “And that’s what she’s talking about—sometimes if you’re just like in your first year or your second year of grief, and something comes out in depression or the loneliness or the crying, and then we give them the tools to help deal with that. And then they realize, ‘Gosh, there’s a whole bunch of other things they talked about that I didn’t remember.’ The second time through they’re not dealing with those same ones they did the first time. The second time it was like, ‘Yeah, that was a little deeper.’”

“As you watch the program, it brings out things that make you go, ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought about that,’” Stenbom recalled. “An example for me was, my husband passed away in February, and we were building a house, and it was almost finished, and we were having trouble with contractors. I have coronary artery disease as well as asthma, and then I had an asthma attack all at once. And I learned in Grief Share that getting sick after losing a loved one is something that is common. And I hadn’t attributed it to that.”

“Everybody there—the helpers, the facilitators, Laura, everybody—has suffered grief and is somewhere on their journey through the whole process,” Battison shared of his experience with the program. “One of the things that that struck me as being extremely important was that people share their experiences and talk about it, their past grief or other things that are going on. You can identify with that, and it I guess it’s like everything else: you suddenly discover that you’re not alone, that there are other people there who are in the same boat.”

Battison’s wife passed away with Alzheimer’s disease. In the end, he said, she didn’t realize who she was talking with. He was urged to go to Grief Share, and he said it made a big difference for him. “A good example is, they talk about being ambushed by your emotions,” he recalled. “It’s something that will trigger an emotional break. You don’t know why or what’s causing it or why you should be reacting the way you are, and it’s just an ambush that’s bringing on some of the grief that you have. It was nine months after my wife passed, and I thought I was doing great. And a situation came up, and I got ambushed, I got angry at another person for a situation and realized what it was. I had to go back and apologize right away.”

Rooke points out that the people who come to the meetings have losses ranging from very recent to more than two decades ago. “It’s for anyone who is experiencing challenges with their grief, no matter how long ago,” she says.

Topics covered during the series include: Is this Normal? The Challenges of Grief. The Journey of Grief (two parts). Grief and Your Relationships. Why? Guilt and Anger. Complicating Factors. Stuck. Lessons of Grief (two parts). Heaven. What Do I Live For?


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