SIMPSONVILLE/COLUMBIA—When the last visitor’s car pulls away after a funeral or visitation, the newly bereaved may face an empty house and a frightening chasm of loneliness. They often ask “What do I do now?”
Rita Cipriani and Millie Peterson, members of St. Mary Magdalene Church, both experienced that emptiness after they lost their husbands.
The two women met each other one day after Mass, discovered their similar experiences, and decided to do something to offer a lasting source of support for people who are grieving.
They have been working with Deacon Michael Amato on the Walking Through Grief Support Ministry, which started meeting on April 24.
The support group is open to all, whether a loss was recent or several years ago. Sessions will begin with an informational video on various topics related to grief, and then continue with small group discussions.
“Too often we who work in ministry think our job is done after we help the bereaved with the funeral and the luncheon,” Deacon Amato said. “Coping with everyday life while dealing with grief can be overwhelming, and support groups can be an important tool.”
Peterson said the main goal of the program is to help people realize they are not alone in their experience, and that there is not one specific way to deal with the loss of a loved one. The support group will offer the chance to learn about the many facets of grief, and each session will include group prayer.
“This is a chance for those who are grieving to simply talk about their feelings and their experiences, and realize they don’t have to sit home alone with their grief,” she said. “People will be there to listen, to share their experiences and also to share our faith, because there is a whole new growth of faith that takes place after a loss. We become different people after a loss.”
Walking Through Grief sessions will take place from 2-3 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Brown Road House on the St. Mary Magdalene campus.
Another new bereavement program is New Beginnings, starting at St. Joseph Church in Columbia. It will be led by Sister Mary Cecile Swanton, a Sister of St. John the Baptist and pastoral associate at St. Joseph.
Sister Mary Cecile has led bereavement groups in the past, and said they are an important tool for people at all stages of grief.
“Support groups are helpful because they cancel out some of the myths about grieving, such as the mistaken belief that grief should be over after a certain time,” she said.
The sessions at St. Joseph will begin May 1 at 11:15 a.m. and run for the next four Tuesdays in the parish ministry and administration building. To sign up, call 803-540-1901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.