GriefShare gives advice for surviving holidays
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
December 14, 2009

GriefShare gives advice for surviving holidays

GriefShare gives advice for surviving holidays
Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor
December 14, 2009

If Jackie Riggsbee Woodcock has learned one thing about grief, it’s

that it is unique in each person.

“Nobody can tell anybody how to grieve,” said Woodcock, who

lost her husband, Phil, in 2005 after an 11-month battle with pancreatic


Woodcock said attending a GriefShare event at a local church

helped her.

Contributed photo

Valerie McKean, who lost her mother to pancreatic cancer, shares photos of her mom with other GriefShare participants.

“I saw that it was a good program,” she said. “You can’t do

it yourself.”

It also inspired her to start GriefShare at her church,

Westwood Baptist in Cary in 2006. The church offers spring, fall and winter

sessions (13-week cycles) of GriefShare and a special “Surviving the Holidays”

event near Christmas.

Each participant at this year’s “Surviving the Holidays”

event received a guide that included 30 days of devotions and Bible study.

“A lot of memories creep back into our minds and hearts at

Christmas and other holidays,” Woodcock said.

Woodcock added a memorial service to the special event,

which drew 25 participants. People brought pictures of loved ones lost and lit

candles in their memory.

“I try to incorporate other stuff into it,” said Woodcock,

who is also a volunteer with hospice and a Sunday School teacher.

A small group

stayed to watch a video about helping children with grief.

Not all grief programs are Christ centered, Woodcock said. GriefShare uses biblical principles.

To those who are helping others through grief or other hard

times, Woodcock recommends they pray that their friends “look up and not

around. Pray that they look to God … to their church family. Your Christian

friends are going to help you a lot. GriefShare helped me, too.”

When it comes to this grief-counseling ministry, Woodcock

admits her bias. But it has helped her, and she has seen it help countless


Her advice for someone grieving:

  • Get into GriefShare.
  • Don’t be alone.
  • Don’t hide away.
  • Don’t hold it in either.

“You’ve got to go through it,” she said. “You have to go

through it … that’s the only way to describe it. GriefShare helps you grow

through the grief.”

Grief doesn’t go away immediately either, she said.

“It takes an average three to five years,” she said,

advising no major decisions be made in the first year unless absolutely

necessary. “Trust in God and don’t hide. Don’t sit at home and dwell on it.”

Christmas is not the hardest for Woodcock. She stays busy

with her family. Her Valentine’s wedding anniversary is much harder, she said.

“Last year I thought I was tough and I could work through it

but I couldn’t do it,” she said.

Woodcock said she went to her full-time job every day but

did not do well, to say the least.

In 2010, Woodcock plans to return to her tradition of going

to the beach for her anniversary.

“Being at the ocean calms me down,” she said. “It always

has. I guess it always will. I could sit and look at the water forever.”

Another thing that has helped Woodcock has been releasing

balloons. She sometimes takes red and white balloons, writes emotions that

she’s had a hard time releasing on them and releases them.

The act symbolizes

“letting go and letting God take care of it,” she said.

She also uses balloons in GriefShare

One of the best things she’s found that helps her is helping

others._ь_ь The normal GriefShare sessions consist of a video and discussing the

five days of Bible study included in a workbook.

Woodcock said whether the

group is small or large she feels “God sends exactly who should be there” each


“I always have plenty of (tissue) and chocolate available,”

Woodcock said. “We share lots of serious times while focusing on healing thru

God’s word as we move from ‘Mourning to Joy.’”

To find a GriefShare group near you visit

www.griefshare.org and type in zip code in the “Find a group near you” section.

Tips to survive holidays

Jackie Woodcock, who coordinates GriefShare at Westwood

Baptist Church in Cary, offered some tips for people to survive the holidays:

  • Stay busy
  • Be with people
  • Be in church with a kind and loving church family.
  • Focus on others, not yourself.
  • Don’t hide your feelings, but don’t get stuck in them