Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Coping with loss: Faith-based support group offers Lawrence residents comfort, conversation

After the loss of their husbands and other loved ones, Lawrence residents Virginia Conard, left, and Marge Borom recently participated in the first counseling session of GriefShare at First Christian Church, 1000 Ky. The program is led by co-facilitators Lori Myrick, right, and Glenda Brenton.

After the loss of their husbands and other loved ones, Lawrence residents Virginia Conard, left, and Marge Borom recently participated in the first counseling session of GriefShare at First Christian Church, 1000 Ky. The program is led by co-facilitators Lori Myrick, right, and Glenda Brenton.

August 2, 2008


Virginia Conard's son fell out of a tree at age 7. He hit his head the wrong way. He was dead in a matter of hours.

Conard says she cried for a year behind closed doors, mourning her son in silence, the mother of a little boy gone.

Forty years later, grief returned in a different way. Her husband, former Kansas House Speaker John Conard, died of cancer in October. The pain was just as unbearable as before, but different.

"I think the loss of different ones in the family has a different impact," Conard says. "The death of my son 40-some years ago and my husband, it's different. The death of my parents, it's a different category. Still a loss, but still a different wrenching of the heart."

And this time, the grieving process was different, too. Instead of crying behind closed doors, Conard joined the first session of GriefShare, a faith-based grief recovery support group. The program, offered last winter at First Christian Church, 1000 Ky., helped Conard not only with the death of her husband, but with the death of her sister-in-law, Violet, who also had been struggling with cancer and died during the 13-week program.

"At one time I had my husband dying of cancer at one end of my home and his sister, my sister-in-law, dying of cancer at the other end of my home," Conard says.

The program let her get out of the house, and out of the atmosphere of pain and suffering that had been her world for so long, Conard says.

"This has been wonderful ... this is special and concentrated, and not everybody wants to hear about your grief. And I understand that," she says. "And so here I can come and I can babble for three hours if I want to and it's OK. And that's very important because I don't want to impose on my family, on my friends."

Lori Myrick, a registered nurse and member of First Christian, is co-facilitator of the GriefShare program. She says now that it has had a successful first session of GriefShare, the church would like to invite anyone in the community to sign up for the next session, which will run Sept. 4 through Dec. 11.

"We want to make it clear that it's not just for people who already have a strong personal faith but anybody that is seeking to have a better understanding of what is the most challenging time in most of our lives," Myrick says. "It's not proselytizing. It's not trying to convert anyone, although there is a strong message of hope."

Death, yet hope

In fact, it was a the message of hope that first drew Myrick to the program and led her to suggest it to church leaders as something that would be good to add to First Christian's ministry.

"I did after-care grief counseling for Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home for a couple of years, and even in my own private practice and history, (I have) just been drawn to working with people who are going through grief. It's a powerful thing. It's a real privilege to go through this time with people, yet the faith piece was missing for me," Myrick says. "Our church had been looking for a way to expand our care ministries ... we're very outreach-oriented here, and we wanted to add this piece. GriefShare was a the natural direction to go because of the faith orientation."

Once the preliminary steps to introduce a local chapter of the national program - which consists of weekly two-hour meetings containing both a GriefShare video and personal discussion - was in place, Myrick recruited church member Glenda Brenton to facilitate the group with her. Brenton, though not trained in grief counseling, was someone with her own level of experience - she'd lost her husband, Jack, and completed another grief support workshop to help her cope.

"When I lost my husband, I attended a grief support workshop, and I found that it was extremely beneficial," Brenton says. "And when you experience the loss of a loved one, your whole world is turned upside down. And so it's very necessary to be in a caring, confidential, supportive environment so that you can share your thoughts and your feelings and experiences with others who are going through the same thing."

Sharing in grief

For Marge Borom, being with others who were also going through the grieving process was important. She'd recently lost her husband, Gilbert, and still wasn't healed from the death of a grown son years earlier. Getting out and talking and being with others who knew how she felt was helpful to her, and she hopes she was helpful to the others in the group.

"I think that anything I experienced and expressed to the group was helpful to someone, maybe not always the same person, and that helped me to go on," Borom says. "And also being able to share my emotions with other people. I got a lot of literature in the mail, the funeral home was wonderful, they sent newsletters, but sitting at home and reading a newsletter by yourself is not the same as getting out with other people. Because that is something that I need, is to get out with people. And I still have to work at getting involved so that I'm not sitting at home a lot - I have plenty of that."

Conard says that after going through the program she even sees her home differently. The same place where both her husband and sister-in-law were slowly saying good-bye is now a place she greets warmly.

"I've been surprised at myself ... that I'm going around saying, 'I'm so grateful. I'm so grateful,'" Conard says. "And here I don't have my wonderful husband, but he left me in this nice home, he left me with 60 years of happy memories. He left me with three wonderful sons and three wonderful daughters-in-law. ... I am grateful."


yellowhouse 9 years, 8 months ago

Above the GriefTo the heavens my eyes gase upheavy as a flower in the rain,though sorrow now has filled my cuponly time can ease my pain.But like the rose above the leafthat has left its thorns belowto rise above the thorns of griefIt takes some time to grow..

yellowhouse 9 years, 8 months ago

Sorry for all the spelling errors...GAWD I am still on my first cup of coffee!!!!

yellowhouse 9 years, 8 months ago

I have lost a 10yr. old sister, an 18 yr. old brother, a besiness partner, and several other children and vaious family memebers in our life. I can totally relate to the fact each death has a different impact on ones life. But life does go on! You have two choices, let it destroy you.. or let it make you stronger.No one lives forever. We each have a number of days that we are allowed to walk the earth. That number of days is Gods gift to us, What we do with them is our gift to God.

Linda Upstill 9 years, 8 months ago

Sarah, thanks for the great article. Grief can be a long and difficult process and it is helpful for the community to know there is support out there. Grief is different for each individual and each loss, and for many a supportive group is a great help. I am the current aftercare coordinator for Rumsey-Yost and I have found those who participate in grief counseling or our support programs appreciate the opportunity to share their loss with others. A grief facilitators role is to provide a companion though the grief journey and offer guidance along the path. I hope those experiencing grief will realize the benefits of "not going alone" and will seek a group in our community to share their grief journey.Linda Upstill, Aftercare CoordinatorRumsey-Yost Funeral Home

onrywmn 9 years, 8 months ago

Our best friend died in October, 2006 of pancreatic cancer. Since he had no family, we moved him in with us and we took care of him in his final weeks of life. Midland Hospice was so helpful and caring to us during this difficult time. Afterwards, I went to grief counseling with a friend who lost her mother two months later, and it was of great help to us. Thanks to all of the local agencies for all the great help we have here in Lawrence. We are truly lucky to have them.

avetaysmom 9 years, 8 months ago

I lost my father on July 10th, just a few weeks ago, suddenly of a massive heart attack, it has been the hardest thing to have to go through. But even harder on my mom, who loved and honered him for over forty years. She is disabled and without my dad is considered home-bound, so me and my husband are having her move in with us. This is very hard on her because she is leaving the home she raised me and my sister in, I think groups like this are great to have, because I can grieve with my mom, but knowing others with a different view helps. I think it is great you are doing this and am going to look at calling to have my mom go through counseling, we are lucky right now to have each other's shoulder to cry on, but I know losing my dad was and is the hardest thing my mom will ever go through.

vickicares 9 years, 8 months ago

I applaud churches who are reaching out to the grieving. That is something not addressed when I was in seminary. As chaplain and grief counselor for a hospice inpatient center, I often find that pastors are helpless when it comes to the grieving. It is sometimes implied that grieving is less than Christian. Not true at all. Thank you for allowing safe places for the grieving to express their God-given emotions and feelings. Rev. Vicki

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