By KRYSTI SHALLENBERGER
Finding community when experiencing sorrow and grief is hard. Judy and Dudley Sheppard found that out when they lost their son, Brian, five years ago.
“The worst thing you can do to someone is go up to them and say ‘I know exactly how you feel,’” said Judy Sheppard. “You don’t know that. No one knows that.”
The Sheppards did not find a true emotional understanding until they talked with others who had experienced loss. Today, the couple is sharing their struggles with others in a similar place through GriefShare ministry at Meadow Brook Baptist Church.
It is in meeting with people share their grief in a Biblical way that they find healing, Judy said.
After losing their son, the Sheppards found there was no ministry to deal specifically with grief in their church and began to consider how they could help others dealing death of a loved one.
“I tried out Compassionate Friends at the Amelia Center,” said Judy, “And we talked about losing our children, but I felt we remained in that constant, bitter state, and I didn’t want that.”
Although GriefShare has been in some churches in Birmingham for many years, the Sheppards first learned of it when Judy stumbled upon its website this August.
She prayed about the possibility of starting the ministry at Meadow Brook and then talked to her husband about it before they approached their pastor, Dr. Ron Sumners.
“Ron had recently been talking about starting a ministry to help people deal with their grief, and this was the perfect answer,” Dudley said.
About six people attend the Sheppards’ GriefShare group each week at Meadow Brook Baptist Church now. Each of the 13 weeks, participants learn to open up to each other and themselves about their grief. The session incorporates prayer, studying Biblical passages, discussion and a film clip that that details steps for healing.
Some in the group share their difficulty in confronting their own grief, while others relay funny stories about their loved ones. Most lost spouses, but a few also lost children.
“All of us experienced loss in different ways, so it’s a good way to understand different kinds of grief,” Judy said.
In addition to Meadow Brook Baptist Church, GriefShare is also held at several other Birmingham churches including Christ Church United Methodist, Church of the Highlands, Briarwood Presbyterian Church and Hunter Street Baptist Church. For more information about GriefShare at each of these churches, visit www.griefshare.org.