Signal Mountain residents Joe and Cathy Brown lost their son Preston, 25, unexpectedly one year ago. To help process their grief they attended Grief Share at City Church last summer.
Their real life experiences, combined with training, will equip them to help their neighbors recover from the loss of loved ones as they serve as two of five Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church Grief Share team leaders.
"Losing a child can have a devastating impact on a marriage and one unexpected benefit of the group discussions was hearing Joe express feelings he wasn't communicating to me," Cathy Brown said. "We have prayed that God would use Preston's death to bring transformation in many lives and have seen so many amazing answers to this prayer. We are involved in Grief Share because we want to share the healing and comfort we have received with others."
She said after losing their son, she relied on her relationship with God, the presence of supportive friends and family, the prayers of so many and reading grief-related books. She said Grief Share keeps participants focused on God instead of losses.
"Grief Share brought me out of isolation and into a sharing mode with others in the group," said Joe Brown. "Men tend to isolate their emotions. Grief is like a heavy emotional door and the Grief Share group helps you to push it open to air out one's stagnant feelings which can lead to depression. Grief Share brings people experiencing similar pain together and I found the trust that developed resulted in real comfort."
Fellow SMPC Grief Share team leader the Rev. Margaret Ferguson is no stranger to grief either. Her father passed away in 1982, but she did not come to terms with it until she attended a grief support group at SMPC in 1997, she said.
"I lost my father through suicide," said Ferguson, who serves as associate pastor of congregational care at SMPC. "I was pregnant with my first child at the time and did not deal with it. I started a grief support group in 1997 at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church. I went to provide moral support. I intended to sit and listen and I found out it was impacting me deeper than I thought it would."
Ferguson said all team leaders represent people who have lost loved ones. With stories to tell and compassion to give, the team leaders will help others through Grief Share achieve the peace they have.
Team leader Berna Slabber lost her sister in a car accident and her godfather and grandmother due to illnesses. Scott Stringer lost his daughter to non-smoker's lung cancer three years ago on Memorial Day.
"God helped me deal with it and a few individuals helped," said Stringer, who has also had to deal with the loss of his parents and now wants to help others with their own healing.
The 13-week Grief Share sessions begin March 8 and will continue Thursdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Youth Warehouse of SMPC. Pre-registration is requested, but late registrants will not be turned away.
"This is a grief recovery program for people that have lost a loved one," said Ferguson. "Psychologists and theologians will be shown on videos. Then, we break into groups and people talk about the video. We want to include as many people that want to come. We are blessed with a lot of leaders."
The program is nondenominational and all who are grieving are invited to attend.