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Group helps people learn to grieve

By From page A1 | September 10, 2014

“Grief does us; we don’t do grief,” said Julie Interrante.

The author of “The Power of a Broken-Open Heart” and facilitator of the El Dorado Hills Senior Center’s upcoming Grief Support Group said because we live in a culture that doesn’t often talk about dying, people who have lost a loved one struggle to pick up the pieces.

“There is a misnomer in our culture that we will have closure and that’s just not true,” she said, explaining that people can move in and out of grieving periods for years. Trusting the grieving process helps people work through the phases at their own personal rhythm and let go of mistaken beliefs, she added.

Interrante will help people navigate that journey, beginning with a Good Grief workshop at 1 p.m. at the El Dorado Hills Senior Center on Thursday, Sept. 16, and continuing with the monthly support group that starts on Oct. 14, 6:30 to 8 p.m. For more information call the senior center at (916) 358-3575.

The grief support group will fill a gap in El Dorado Hills’ senior services, said senior center coordinator Janet Kenneweg. The center hosts classes, workshops and groups aimed at improving seniors’ lives.

“We often see and hear people here who just don’t know where to turn (after losing a loved one),” Kenneweg said. Interrante spoke at the senior center in 2013 and thanks to the generous support of Green Valley Mortuary, which picked up her fee, she’s back on this monthly basis.

The process begins by helping people really feel their loss and share those feelings and thoughts about their loved ones. “So that the loss is fully integrated into their lives,” Interrante explained. There’s a fear that if they really allow themselves to grieve, they won’t come out of that dark place, she added, but dealing head-on with the grief helps avoid anger and depression.

Sharing and finding support is critical, Interrante said, and she also encourages those grieving to integrate ritual into their lives — a space in the home that’s dedicated to the person they lost. It could include a photo, candle or items that remind them of their loved one.

People who are grieving also need to acknowledge that the loss will irreversibly change their own lives. She likens this transitional period to a phoenix rising from the ashes. This takes time, she said, but also allows those who are grieving to ask “Who am I? Who do I want to become?”

“That piece of grief, I think, is much more challenging,” she said, noting that many people fear that if they do move on they will forget their loved one but, she assured, “Love doesn’t go anywhere.”

Noel Stack


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