Through his many interactions with parishioners afflicted by grief, it gradually occurred to Deacon Peter Dohr that there can be strength in numbers connected to the healing process.
“A lot of folks get stuck (in their grief) when they’re by themselves,” he said.
His observation has served as the impetus for a support ministry, “Good Grief,” that was launched this past spring in the cluster where Deacon Dohr serves as parish deacon — St. Paul of the Cross, Honeoye Falls; St. Agnes, Avon; and St. Rose, Lima. Participants meet on the first Sunday of each month at St. Paul of the Cross Church, 31 Monroe St., Honeoye Falls, with the next meeting set for Nov. 5 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. (For details, contact Deacon Dohr at Peter.Dohr@dor.org or 585-582-2627.)
The ministry is open to all — parishioners and nonparishioners; Catholics and non-Catholics; all ages; those who have lost a parent, spouse, child or friend. They are welcome to attend as many or few meetings as they’d like.
Gatherings typically range from 12 to 20 participants in various stages of the grieving process — those who are freshly grieving and others who have struggled with grief for some time, even decades. Deacon Dohr, who facilitates the meetings, emphasized that “it’s not psychotherapy” but simply people sharing their stories, which in turn helps those going through similar experiences to feel a connection.
“We resist offering advice but are more about encouraging, sharing and exploring as a group some of the struggles,” said Deacon Dohr, who also serves as executive director of Catholic Charities of Wayne County. “They have a chance to express things that have been successful for them, and that helps others along.”
In fact, he said, a participant’s willingness to assist often results in lessened grief for that person.
“It’s liberating. I think that’s the hidden surprise,” Deacon Dohr said. “If they’re out there helping someone else in their grief, they also get lifted up in the process.”
Deacon Dohr said he’s “super-pleased” at how the first-year ministry is going, noting that attendees have begun to connect socially outside the group — another sign that their isolation and despair is dissipating.
Good Grief is among several initiatives available in the Southern Tier for people dealing with some form of grief. Among the others:
• Spirituality of Grief takes place in Schuyler Catholic Community and deals with grief using the lens of faith. It meets on the last Monday of each month at 1 p.m. at St. Mary of the Lake Church, 905 N. Decatur St., Watkins Glen. Contact Deacon Tom Ruda at 607-535-2786.
• Wounded Healers Bereavement Support Group Inc. meets at St. Mary Our Mother School, 811 Westlake St., Horseheads. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The group is open to anyone who needs support, education and understanding in a time of grief after the death of a loved one . Visit www.woundedhealers.com or call 607-796-2795.
• Stephen Ministry provides trained parishioners offering emotional support for people in some kind of crisis, including grieving. The national, interdenominational program has a branch at Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County. Call 607-687-1068.
• According to the parish bulletin of Steuben County’s St. John Vianney Parish, an area chapter has begun for The Compassionate Friends, a national grief support organization for people who have experienced the death of a child — at any age, from any cause. The group meets the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Dormann Library, 101 W. Morris St., Bath. E-mail email@example.com or call 607- 661-5015.
• Beginning Experience of Rochester is offered throughout the Rochester Diocese for individuals and families grieving a loss through death, as well as separation or divorce. The ministry offers weekend programs as well as 10-week rebuilding sessions throughout the year. Call 585-987-1750, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.beginningexperience.org.
• Elizabeth Ministry welcomes people from all parts of the diocese who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. The ministry offers emotional, spiritual and practical help for women and families through shared experiences and the Catholic faith. E-mail ElizabethMinistryROC@gmail.com.