LINCOLN — Grief can be isolating and confusing.
The Rev. Fred Meade wants people to know that it’s normal to feel “whacked out” while in the throes of grief, and offers a judgment-free place to talk about it.
Together with licensed mental health practitioner David Yuells, Meade is introducing a new grief group at Chapel Street Congregational Church, open to all.
Meade, who recently took over as pastor at Chapel Street, said the goal of the group is to “meet people where they are” in their journey through grief. Although the group is being organized by the church, Meade said it’s not necessarily faith-oriented.
“We’re not evangelizing. We’re there to listen, to offer a space for people to share their stories, and to normalize the grieving process,” said Meade, whose background in pastoral work includes 10 years spent in New Orleans – three in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina helping to heal the devastated community.
Unfortunately, death is a part of life. “It’s something we all have to think about and learn how to respond to,” he said, but it’s not uncommon for people to “begin to feel a little crazy after losing someone they loved.”
The well known Kubler-Ross Model outlines the five stages of grief that occur after a loss. While people may experience each of the five emotions of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance to varying degrees, Meade believes the idea of having defined “stages of grief” is misleading.
“It’s more about simply being honest about where you are right now, lifting that up and sharing it with other people,” he said, adding that grief comes with uncomfortable emotions. “It’s not about going from one step to another.”
In short, there’s no clear or one-size-fits-all path to grieving, but sharing your journey, wherever you are, can be cathartic.
Meade and Yuells have run a number of support groups in the past. It can be important for grieving individuals to feel a sense of community, he said.
He said Chapel Street Congregational is happy to be able to provide an opportunity for that through its grief group, which will meet for the first time at the church on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. The meeting is free to attend. The only requirement is a face mask.
Part of the group process will involve getting to know one another and building a sense of trust, Meade said. There will be no judging or critiquing, he said.
“As human beings, we function best in tribes. In a sense, this group will be a small community of support,” he said.
All people, regardless of their religious or other backgrounds, are welcome to attend. The loss doesn’t have to be fresh.
The pandemic has compounded losses and complicated grief for many.
“The pandemic is a cultural experience in loss,” Meade said. Grief is exacerbated by other losses, and it’s his role to “help people understand that it’s not just one loss they’re going through … when we grieve, we grieve all of the losses we have inside.”
Chapel Street’s grief group isn’t designed to be a Kleenex-passing emotional experience every time, but a community that allows for people to openly experience the natural progression of grief. Healing is different for everyone, Meade said.
The first grief group will meet at 1 p.m. today, Thursday, Oct. 7, at 185 Chapel St. in Lincoln.