In 1976, Lola Greathouse’s 18-year-old daughter committed suicide. One year later, so did her father. “I felt lost. I had no idea what to do or where to turn,” she said. “I wished there was a support system somewhere for the grief I felt. But there wasn’t.”
Later, in 1992, Lola’s husband died. Four other women in her small town had also recently lost their husbands, so the five ladies, all about the same age, gathered often to talk. A counselor friend of Lola’s even taught brief lessons on recovering from grief.
Then, in a brief 12-month period, Lola lost her mother, brother, and mother-in-law. It was simply too much. She knew something had to be done.
“I had recently moved to Arlington, Texas, and was working for my church, First Baptist,” she said. “I went to our minister and told him we needed a grief recovery program. So many people in our church had suffered loss like I had, and I remembered how our women’s group had helped each other in our time of grief. I knew other people needed that kind of support, and they needed it now!”
As a result, Lola’s church ordered GriefShare, a thirteen-session, DVD video- and workbook-based program designed to provide practical instruction and small group discussion for those grieving the loss of a loved one.
Lola received the GriefShare materials in the spring of 1999, only a few weeks after they first became available.
“I watched the videos as soon as they arrived, and loved them,” said Lola. “I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. It was just what we needed. And I wanted to be a part of it.”
In April 1999, First Baptist Church of Arlington, Texas, launched their first GriefShare session. Lola and her friend, Wanda Parker, served as group lay leaders. Eighteen people from the church and surrounding community attended the first night.
“We prayed that they would each feel loved and that in the small group time we could make them feel comfortable enough so they could share with each other,” said Lola. “It’s so important to get all of those feelings of loneliness, hurt, and grief out, so everyone realizes they all have the same feelings. Sharing is the best form of healing.”
Many people have found healing this past year as Lola and Wanda have continued to lead their church’s GriefShare program. One couple’s fifteen-year-old son died, and they spent five years searching for answers with various counselors and psychologists. The couple told Lola it was a complete waste of time and money; GriefShare was what helped them to heal.
An elderly woman whose husband had died began attending GriefShare at First Baptist, but she continued to experience profound sadness. “I knew she needed to get out and do something to help herself heal,” said Lola, “so I asked her what she liked to do. She thought for a moment and said, ‘I like to go bowling.’ Each week at our session, I asked her if she’d been bowling yet. She always said, no. Then one day, she came to see me, smiling and laughing. She had joined a bowling league!”
“My part in all this is very small,” said Lola. “As a facilitator, I just set up the materials, show the DVD video, and then start the small group discussion. The GriefShare videos and the participants do all the real work of healing grieving hearts. Before long, it’s just like the Bible says — their mourning is turned to joy.”
“I am so thankful to be able to serve God in this ministry,” said Lola. “I have been healed of my grief by helping others heal. We will always remember the loved ones we lost, but GriefShare helps us move back into life. I always tell our participants, ‘Life goes on, but love lives on.'”
Lola Greathouse is a GriefShare facilitator at First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, (www.fbca.org).
GriefShare grief recovery support groups meet in thousands of churches around the world. For more information about GriefShare go to www.griefshare.org or call 1-800-395-5755.
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