Lee Adcox didn’t go to a support group when his daughter, Stephanie, was killed by a drunk driver. He mourned his own way while his wife Deborah went through a program designed to help her cope. There is no recovery from something like that, but with help, people can continue living. Lee saw Deborah learn to manage her pain.
“I saw her get better,” Lee said, “and I saw myself get stuck.”
As time went on, Deborah began to volunteer with GriefShare, the program that had brought her so much solace when her daughter died. When Deborah was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008, Lee prepared for the worst with an action plan. If his wife died, he would go through the 13-week GriefShare program at Willowbrook Baptist Church.
Deborah died in 2010—though making it two years after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis classifies her as nothing less than a fighter—and Lee went to GriefShare. It changed his life. This time, he was able to deal with the pain better. Now, he’s helping others who have lost someone.
Now, Lee is the leader of Willowbrook GriefShare, a support group that averages 30 members during each session. Some have lost spouses. Others have lost children. Their tragedies range from illness to accident to suicide.
Lee didn’t start out heading into a leadership role. The Huntsville program was started by Cheri Rogers, a certified grief counselor who had lost both of her children—one to cancer and the other to a car accident.
You won’t be healed at the end of the three-month, free program. In fact, Lee recommends you go through it twice just to be able to cope with a loss. Each session includes a 35-minute video along with breakout sessions to share your story, your experiences and your pain with others.
They joke about how many tissues they go through—a small bit of lightheartedness in an otherwise somber occasion. The 15 boxes of Kleenex go fast as the members—going only by their first names—talk to others who are trying to manage. Much of the time is spent discussing things that isolate them from others who are not grieving—like temporary memory loss.
“They think, ’Is this normal for somebody grieving?’ ” Lee said. “People are enlightened to see that others are going through the same things they are going through.”
What Not To Say
It’s true; people mess up condolences, but Lee wants you to know there are certain things to say and certain things not to say. First, do not say you know how they feel. You do not know what they are going through. Unless you have lost someone with the same, complex relationship in the same manner—and that is unlikely—you do not know. Never tell someone you understand.
If someone you know is going through a hard time, there are some helpful things you can say and do. Tell them you love them and you’re there for them. Hug them. Write a card that says, “I’m feeling so much for you. Here’s my phone number.” The goal is to let them know that, not only are you offering to help, you actually want to help, Lee said.
If you want to make a care package, include a journal, tissues, a book on grief and maybe a soft music CD.
GriefShare meets on Monday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. at Willowbrook Baptist Church. For more information, check out their website.
The Community Journal applauds the men and women—like the facilitators of GriefShare—who reach out to others in their time of need.
Find a GriefShare Meeting Group Near You.