After hosting a seminar on depression in 2015, Taber (Alberta) Christian Reformed Church identified a need in their community to address the tender issues of grief and grieving. In response, the church offered a day-long seminar they called “Good Grief” on January 21, 2017.
“We have had some big losses in our church in the three-and-a-half years I’ve pastored here. It’s good, ministry-wise, to be able to offer something like this—to help people realize that they will experience losses, that their experiences will be unique to them, but that grief is a healing process,” said pastor Brian Kuyper. “It is something you move out of—not immediately, of course—and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Kuyper said his church’s outreach team invited a counselor, Ruth Bergen Braun of Lethbridge, Alta., to lead the seminar, which was attended both by members of Taber CRC’s congregation and folks from the local community.
“We had about 30 people there,” Kuyper said. “The majority of them were from outside our church. We had advertised it around town in the local paper.”
One of the attendees, Mathilda Van Huizen, has experienced multiple losses in her life over the last five years. She found that the seminar reinforced many things she had been learning through personal counseling.
“One aha moment [for me] was learning that healthy grieving occurs in a zigzag process—from dealing with loss to taking a step toward restoration, backstepping to loss, forward to restoration, etc. I have seen this in my own life, and did wonder sometimes if I was doing something wrong to slip-slide backward. Now I understand it to be normal and part of the process,” she said.
For Kuyper, his biggest takeaway was the idea of secondary loss, which is something that occurs as a consequence of an initial loss. For example, if a spouse dies, there are rituals that we often go through to help us through the process of grief, but for a secondary loss (such as having to move from your house because you no longer have the income from your deceased spouse), there are no rituals. “All of that is grief and loss, and it’s important not to minimize how people handle it,” he said.
Taber CRC and its outreach committee are open to exploring other issues and topics that may arise out of this most recent seminar. While there are no firm plans for next year’s event, Kuyper says they are open to whatever God may bring their way.