The vision of my project is to help families and individuals to begin the process of integrating their grief and loss, into their lives. Included in the vision is to provide them with catalyst for journeying on the road toward healing. Through grief education, help them to gain understanding about the mourning and grief process.
The grief process has many dimensions and symptoms. According to Eric Lindemann (1944), in a response to the Coconut Grove Night Club fire in Boston, on November 28, 1942, he reported that “People found a response after a trauma, as not only helpful but stress reducing.” In what was at that time the worst single-building fire in the country's history, 493 people perished when flames swept through the crowded nightclub. Lindemann wanted to maintain the good mental health of the community and prevent emotional disorganization. The two planned weekends will be an attempt, to help the bereaved families and individuals, cope with their tragedy.
The family members chosen for this project will not, have received intervention, by means of a grief counselor or community agency.
Gifts are vital, and I bring to this project, thirty years of working with grieving families, Pastoral Ministry, Pastoral Counseling and Clinical Pastoral Education training. My career began in 1977 as a NY State Licensed Funeral Director. I cared for hundreds of grieving families from 1977-present. My post graduate course work (2005-2009) focused on the care of individuals and families. I worked as a Resident Counselor for Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Service in Norfolk VA. I spent 15 months as a Chaplain Resident in the Sentara School of Chaplaincy and two years as a Donor Family Advocate for an Organ Procurement (Donation) Organization. My care with the OPO, was directed toward families who had suffered a sudden loss.
Based upon my past experience with this project, the results have been to guide families through their journey toward healing. Through thought provoking discussions they peer into their personal lives, openly discussing, how they grieve and mourn. By doing so, they are able to develop the skills necessary to identify the pain in their lives. Not only identify but engage the pain in a normal and healthy way. Participants also view prior loses and deaths, gaining insight into those loses and how they impact their ability, or inability to function in life. Being aware of their personal grief processes will become a part of their journey toward healing. This hopefully will change their view of life and allow for a healthy mourning process. There is no denying that this process of healing is a lifelong one. This weekend of intervention will help families gain skills to “cope.” I use the term perturbation; to describe the progress that may be made will be a slow steady movement forward, toward healing.
The vision of helping persons to integrate losses and understand the grief and mourning process will include, several factors.
The project is designed to help urban families by separating them from their everyday environment and providing an atmosphere of peace.
Two-two day sessions will be held. The weekend sessions will provide them a safe place to speak about their personal lives.
In a safe atmosphere of Christian fellowship, our conversations will allow them to share their stories. The sharing of stories may lead to healing and understanding of themselves and in the case of families, each other‘s grief.
Resources will include Alan Wolfelt’s Living in the Shadows of the Ghosts of Grief: Step into the Light. The discussion will be developed from an outline of this book.
Participants will be asked to commit to a second weekend, six months later for follow-up discussions and participation in a project, i.e. Memory Boxes.
The sessions will be held at a dramatic lakeside setting and the beauty of he Poconos of PA in a thriving community where visitors come to find nature's beauty mixed with spiritual growth and renewal.
Assessing whether or not we have met our goals will be achieved in several ways: through journal-ing and, oral and written evaluations, along with, one follow-up sessions six months later. This enables the participants to provide data on their personal progress. Oral evaluations, allow those who are may have trouble expressing strong emotional thoughts in writing to verbally express those thoughts. The second, six month follow-up weekend, allows for the group, which convened in May, to come back to the circle of trust that was created and, affirm each other’s thoughts, success and disappointments over the prior six months. The goals are more individually focused and therefore not evaluated as a group but as individuals, collectively.
In May of 2009 we convened at the Episcopal Cottage in Chautauqua, NY for our first session. I organized it through the Stop The Violence Coalition located of Buffalo, NY. Based upon the response from individuals from the organization, and families that participated last year, families were helped. There is acceptance by the organization and anticipation by new families to have sessions each year. Previous year's sessions were funded by me and the coalition.
Witness is provided based upon the outcomes promoted by the project. It provides families and individuals with education and understanding of the grief and mourning process. This understanding hopefully is translated and shared in several ways.
Families are able to begin the healing process and love themselves and one another.
There is an impact on the community, through healing and peace during times of great personal tragedy and loss. Sometimes the loss brings frustration, loss of hope and more violence to the family and community. Hopefully this cycle will be broken.
One of the ways that I anticipate the results of this work to be communicated is through other relationships. This can happen on an academic, diocesan and collegial level. In prior years we found opportunities to provide information and feedback through my Second Three Years program on the Virginia Theological Seminary campus. I will hopefully publish, with the help of others, to study dimensions of grief and how it impacts the caregiver (clergy). This will include an online training program and manual for grief and loss for clergy.
This project is provided to urban families (18 individuals) who have suffered some type of tragic death of a family member. The project will provide families with a safe and nurturing environment to talk about their personal stories of grief and loss. The stories will allow them, to give voice to their inner thoughts, and emotions through two, weekend sessions. Each morning and evening’s gathers for meditation/prayer will invoke the presence of God’s Holy Spirit to allow space for anyone, desiring healing. Hopefully the weekend will bring personal comfort and empower the participants to help themselves and their families through the integration of their loses.
Bringing together grieving families to integrate their losses and gain understanding into the grief and mourning process, through a weekend long session and discussion. The goal is to promote a healthy grief and mourning process.
First Weekend Session: TBA
First request for a written evaluation:
Second Weekend Session (follow-up): 6 Months after first session
Families from the first session will gather and discuss findings from time interim period between sessions.