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Rockhampton South Uniting Church members and facilitators of the Grief Recovery Program Debbie Carige and Kath Hooper. Photo: Supplied

Learning to say goodbye

Rockhampton South Uniting Church is reaching out to the community through a program helping people to deal with grief. Dianne Jensen reports.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of the toughest things we ever face. When members of Rockhampton South Uniting Church heard about training for the Grief Recovery Program offered by Blue Care Gold Coast, they knew that this was an opportunity to respond to an ongoing community need.

Two years later, trained volunteers from the church have provided six programs to small groups, each running for seven weeks. The free program is offered several times a year and is supported by donations.

Aurilea Augustine, one of three current facilitators (with Debbie Carige and Kath Hooper), helped set up the initial program. As a veteran volunteer with the Cancer Council and a cancer survivor, she was drawn to the concept of providing a safe place for people to share their grief experience.

“It is an area that not many people feel comfortable talking about,” says Aurilea. “The strength of the program is the ‘compassionate group’ which gently listens and allows time and space for participants to tell of their loss and what they are experiencing.”

She says that educating people about the physical, emotional and mental manifestations of grief and providing activities such as journaling enables participants to travel at their own pace to a place of acceptance and hope.

“The main benefit of this program is for people to come together and realise that yes, they aren’t going mad, it is quite normal to feel this way.”

The program is well supported by the congregation, and some participants have expressed interest in setting up similar programs in their own churches. Auriliea says the outreach is a practical opportunity for lay people to share the compassion of Jesus, and to walk beside people experiencing the pain and isolation of loss.

“I think it sits very neatly with the mission of the church. We feel humbled to be part of their lives, and it is wonderful to see how far most people travel within those seven weeks and what a difference it makes.”

The next Grief Recovery Program at Rockhampton will be held in September. For more information contact 4922 6414 or email. For information about facilitator training contact Sue Burgess (Blue Care Gold Coast) on 5532 0588.

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