Susan Kastelic • Derry Member

In 2009, Rev. Marie Buffaloe asked me if I would be willing to embark with her on a new program for Derry Church. She had in mind a way to assist people dealing with the loss of a loved one. She explained to me that she had found a program entitled “Grief Share,” a nationally recognized Christian based bereavement program.

At that time our church had suffered the losses of several members, and a few of our members had other personal losses in their lives. We began meeting on Tuesday afternoons and our first group consisted almost entirely of Derry members. The idea was that they could attend Grief Share, then stay and enjoy fellowship around the table at Terrific Tuesday meals.

Since then, with outreach and advertising, our groups often have community members outnumbering our church members. People can visit to learn where the program is being offered. They come from a variety of faith traditions and some travel quite a distance to reach our church. We have faced unique challenges with those we seek to serve. 

Knowing that Marie would not be with me this year, I asked God and my prayer warriors for direction in discerning if I could do this as the leader. In the late winter, the answer became clear that “yes,” needed to try. I was fortunate to have a woman who had gone through the program with us two times and had become a leader with us. Bonnie Landes from Palmyra Church of the Brethren was committed to making the program a success and has worked closely with me this summer to accomplish that goal. I am grateful to Bonnie for her informed guidance and compassionate heart.  

We are now meeting on Monday afternoons and are privileged to gather each week with a group who have suffered profound losses in their lives. It is an honor to be a part of their shared experience. In these two hours they find acceptance and a safe place for their pain and their tears. These are times of affirmation of God’s love and God’s care for us. We look forward to being with them each week and providing the opportunity for them to try small steps, which often lead to bigger steps and deeper understandings of a God who never leaves us. 

Editor’s note: The 13-week summer GriefShare series concludes in September, but they’ll be back next year. Watch the eNews for the 2023 schedule.