Members of a Quad-City congregation presented a seminar Sunday to make the holidays easier for Quad-Citians who have lost loved ones.
Twenty people gathered in Heritage Church, Rock Island, to talk about managing grief during the holidays during the free “Grief Share: Surviving the Holidays.”
“The pain of grief is one of the most intense feelings you can experience, especially at holiday time,” said Heritage member Chris Agnew of Bettendorf.
This one-time, two-hour seminar helped people prepare for surprise emotions that they might encounter while they experience the holidays, said Agnew, who is well-acquainted with coping with grief during the holidays. He and his wife, Margy, lost their son, Tad, 33, to melanoma four years ago.
“This is our fourth holiday season without him,” said Agnew, who added that he and his wife were their son’s caretakers during his illness.
“The holidays are still going to be hard for us, but not quite as hard as they were,” he said. “Pain and joy can coexist. That balance is starting to even out, or at least get a little bit better for us.”
Agnew always bought gag gifts for his son and two sons-in-law. The hard part this year will be buying just two gag gifts, said Agnew, who plans to prepare himself so he “won’t be blindsided by grief.”
Attendees sat at three tables and discussed their grief and how they manage it after watching a video about the subject.
Dr. Erling Larson of Bettendorf, a retired physician and a chaplain at Genesis, lost his wife to cancer when she was 38. He is now remarried to a woman who had lost her husband.
He and Agnew are facilitators for “Grief Share” classes, which have been ongoing for 10 years, and are held in 13-week sessions at both church campuses in Rock Island and Bettendorf.
“We understand the pain and despair, and we know how hard it is,” Agnew said.
The holidays, said Larson, are a “megaphone that magnifies pain and loss.” For example, when the family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner, “there’s this big hole there,” Agnew said.
“Healing from a loss is a journey,” Larson said. "The 13-week Grief Share gives people the tools they need for that journey.”
Some people, Agnew said, attend the programs more than once. One man who lost his mother about a year ago said he finally started to see hope the second time he participated in the program.
“Over the course of 13 weeks, we become community for each other,” Larson said.
Lorrie Tetrick of Rock Island is a “prayer warrior” and a coach for groups the church offers. “I saw my mother die,” said Tetrick, one of five children who was the only sibling at her mother’s bedside at that moment. “I got to see her take her last breath.”
Tetrick feels called to help people and prays on an individual basis with many others.
She knows a woman who lost her father two years ago. Someone asked her friend, "Aren’t you over that yet?”
Grief is a personal journey, Tetrick said, but others can help.
“We need to have compassion for those with loss.”