“We know you are free now from all of your struggles
But you know what? We're missing those kisses and cuddles
But we know you are safe as in Gods' arms you rest
And know for that short time we were truly blessed.”
These words are penned by Jan, a widowed grandmother who lost her infant grandson several years ago and her husband a year ago. She has found great comfort and support in attending Griefshare, a support group at St Mark’s, Sadleir for those who are mourning the passing of loved ones.
This Bible-based support group covers grief, suicide, murder and difficult relationships and is open to all members of the community. “They really love coming because they can relate and share openly about their grief,” says Ans van der Zwaag, pastoral varer at Sadleir.
Griefshare began this year, with two online groups and one face to face. The demand for online groups was unexpected.
“We already had so many people who had deaths of family members or close friends,” says Ms van der Zwaag, who was formerly a counsellor. “I didn’t want to run it online. I thought, ‘How will people cry and share?’ But I was getting inquiries from New Zealand and Queensland, people asking me if I was running the group online. I thought, maybe God is telling me something.”
To her surprise, the online groups were just as powerful as the in-person group. “I always say ‘Do you have your tissues? Do you have your Bible?’” she says. “God has used the group in a powerful way. They realise they’re not alone in all this.”
“God has used the group in a powerful way. They realise they’re not alone in all this.”
Each session involves watching a video with testimonies, personal reflection and discussion time. The course helps people to approach their grief with input from the gospel by taking people through topics such as forgiveness.
“People say you have to move on, as if you leave something behind,” Ms van der Zwaag says. “[The course] says we move forward. We discuss false beliefs about God and other false thoughts we can have, like ‘Time will heal’. People seem to take comfort in God’s word.”
It’s easy to miss how much pain people are facing, even a year or two after the passing of a loved one. “It’s made me aware of a need in our church that I wasn’t aware enough of,” says the Rev David Morgan, senior minister of St Mark’s.
“People are in so much pain. [Griefshare] gives them a space to express and share that pain, while considering that pain in light of the gospel. It’s a wonderful ministry to people in our church and to people in our community as well.”
Adds Ms van der Zwaag: “Pray that as people go through Griefshare they can really see God is ultimately our rock and our refuge. I feel privileged to see how God is at work.”