Church hosts program on grief

Staff photo: Brooke Finch Kathy Hammill, the lead facilitator of the local GriefShare program, introduces herself to the attendees of the “Surviving the Holidays” session Saturday at Clovis’ Central Baptist Church.

Staff photo: Brooke Finch
Kathy Hammill, the lead facilitator of the local GriefShare program, introduces herself to the attendees of the “Surviving the Holidays” session Saturday at Clovis’ Central Baptist Church.

By Brooke Finch
Staff Writer
bfinch@cnjonline.com

The holidays can be a joyous time, or in some cases, the worst time of the year.

This was the sentiment expressed at Central Baptist Church Saturday morning, as a room full of grieving Clovis residents took part in the community-wide GriefShare program, “Surviving the Holidays.”

Since 2011, Central Baptist has hosted the GriefShare program multiple times a year to offer anyone — whether religious or not — support and guidance as they recover from the death of loved ones.

Dick Ross, the church’s pastoral care associate, knows a thing or two about crisis intervention.

Not only has he worked with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico Disaster Relief and the New Mexico State Health Department Critical Incident Stress Management team, but he also serves as a city and hospital chaplain.

“Grief can be destructive, or it can be constructive,” Ross said, “and we want to make sure it’s constructive. If you get stuck, you can have a problem in the grief process with depression and all kinds of things, so we try to help alleviate that and help them along in any way we can. We feel like that’s part of our Christian responsibility.”

As the lead facilitator of the local GriefShare group, Kathy Hammill has had more than five years’ experience helping Clovis community members cope with loss.

“The holidays are terrible,” Hammill said. “The anniversaries, the birthdays, the date they died — those are all bad. But this is universally a bad time for everybody dealing with loss.”

After introductions during Saturday’s two-hour session, attendees watched a short video featuring true success stories of people who’ve experienced loss. The session also offered a workbook meant as a “survival guide,” with tips and information for getting through the holidays.

One part of the program — breaking into discussion groups — is typically a more difficult task.

As Hammill explained, not everyone is ready to talk about loss.

“When you can begin to share,” Hammill said to the crowd, “the healing really starts to speed up. But you can pass; you’re not forced to share.”

Melissa Perkins is one example of how the GriefShare program can help heal and transform a person’s life.

Perkins, who once struggled to open up about the unexpected death of her 14-year-old son several years ago, is now a GriefShare facilitator helping others through their grief.

“I was forced to come at first,” Perkins said. “This is a very hard class — to actually step out and get here is huge. Quite frankly, you feel like your world is shattered, and you don’t know how to start putting back the pieces. It’s nice to have somewhere to come and people that understand. You’re just here to be surrounded by love.”

GriefShare also helped Perkins find solace in the church. What began as a nonreligious venture eventually led her on a spiritual journey to become a member of Central Baptist.

“It was just a godsend to be surrounded by people that weren’t judgmental. You could honestly tell them what you’re feeling. It’s a very emotional class, but it’s a very healing class. It’s helped me; now I feel like I need to help those other mothers that have lost their children. That’s my ministry God has led me to.”