By Brigid Curtis Ayer (For The Catholic Moment)
Everyone’s Grief is Different
CARMEL — “Everyone’s grief is different,” says Jim Buzzelli, GriefShare team facilitator at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish. His involvement with bereavement groups stemmed with the death of his wife, Marcy, in February 2011.
Their 44-year marriage ended in an instant when she had a heart attack. Buzzelli said he was “a walking zombie” for six months.
“The shock was so great,” he said. “I was completely lost.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything,” he said. “I had a good life before my wife’s death. I wanted it to stay the way it was. I liked where I was and I didn’t want my life to change. I just couldn’t live with the fact that she was gone.”
Bereavement groups help
After attending three different bereavement groups, Buzzelli realized that she was still with him spiritually.
“I’m Catholic, shouldn’t I know about the spiritual life?” he said. “But I didn’t.
“You know how men are,” Buzzelli said. “They don’t want to ask for help or talk about their feelings or admit they need help … Turns out I did need help. … I thought, ‘If I join more than one group, maybe the pain will go away faster.’”
So in addition to Carmel’s Prime Life Bereavement group, Buzzelli joined an informal group through the Stephen Ministry at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish.
The Griefshare program
Then Jayne Slaton, director of the parish’s Matthew 25 Center, brought GriefShare, a more formal bereavement program, to the parish.
By creating a safe supportive environment, GriefShare creates an atmosphere and process for people who have lost a loved one to death, to be able to work through their grief with others in a loving manner.
“What you will find at GriefShare is a group of people willing to listen to you and understand what you are going through,” Buzzelli said. “At the time when you are really in the early stages of grief, you are not sure if God is on your side. Yet God is love, and he is on your side. It’s important to get out of your fear and pain, but for me that involved taking a risk.”
GriefShare is available at many churches around the country and is not exclusively Catholic.
The groups meet weekly. Each session features a video seminar with experts, support group discussion with a specific focus, and personal reflection and study.
GriefShare participants also receive a workbook to help them work on various aspects of the grieving process.
Because each meeting is self-contained, a person can start any time during the 14-week series.
“My life is great now,” Buzzelli said. “I’m not being disrespectful to my wife, though it may sound that way. It’s just the way I feel. I have a full social calendar. I have lots of friends, I have a new ministry. …
“It’s amazing how God works. It could have all been negative. All this has changed my spiritual growth and outlook on life. We all have choices. I could have blamed God, but I had a lot of support from my church support group and my family.
“I learned that certain uncertainty is part of life,” he said. “Our certain uncertainty is God. It expresses my journey. God surprises me every day. It was nothing that I would have expected. For me to have discovered this and experienced this is tremendous.
A Whole New Life
“God has changed my life 180 degrees,” he said. “When you’re grieving, you are not sure how to get out of the pain or to know if you’re healing. The way to know that is you make up your mind to get help because if you don’t, it can be dangerous. And remembering our certain uncertainty is God and he’s waiting to heal you.”
For more information on the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish GriefShare group, e-mail Buzzelli at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 317-844-3736.