FAIRMONT — Grief, at times crushing, is a part of life.
It can be a battle that shouldn’t be faced alone.
That’s the mission of GriefShare, a program available in the United States, Canada and more than 10 other countries that will be held 6-8 p.m. Mondays from Sept. 14-Dec. 7 at LIFE United Methodist Church, 1564 Mary Lou Retton Drive in Fairmont.
“GriefShare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. You don’t have to go through the grieving process alone.”
That’s GriefShare’s statement of its purpose, and a Pleasant Valley man turned to the local program last year and found much-needed assistance.
Frank Flynn lost his wife Kathryn, at the age of 64, to cancer last November.
“I was having a particularly hard time of it,” he said.
“My wife passed away. Hospice Corp. had taken care of my wife in her last days. My cousin (Leila Honaker) was a counselor for Hospice. She encouraged me to seek a little counseling. I went to them once, and I just wasn’t ready for it. She called me and told me about the GriefShare group and encouraged me to try it.
“I did, and it was very helpful to me.”
GriefShare participants receive a handbook, and each week there is a period of fellowship and a dinner. After watching a video, participants break into groups for discussion.
“It was good for me to be able to express myself,” Flynn said. “Without my wife, I was all alone. I didn’t really have anybody to talk to. The GriefShare brought out in me the ability to speak about it and hear others speak.
“There was a man in my class who lost his wife the week after I lost mine. I observed him, and I patterned some of what I did off what he was doing.”
Flynn “learned a lot of things” while participating in GriefShare.
“I learned primarily that God had not abandoned my wife. He had just taken her home,” Flynn said. “Her days on this Earth were over. I came to accept that.
“I came to accept the fact that nothing I could have done, should have done or could do over again would make any difference, that my wife’s time was up.
“It helped me unburden the hatred that had built up in me concerning some of the doctors, some of the hospitals, some of their procedures.”
Local treatment was abandoned, and Kathryn became a patient of Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Atlanta facility.
“They gave my wife an extra two and a half years of life after the doctors here had given up on her and told her death was two months away,” Flynn said. “I had always, looking back, wished we had gone a year earlier, two years earlier. I wished I had grabbed a hold of the ball when my wife threw it out there.
“Looking back on it, my wife survived five years and two months with colon cancer. Most people don’t get more than 24 months. She was a fine, Christian lady, and it let her have time to bury some of her demons and to testify about her faith in Jesus Christ. I am forever grateful for that.”
The Flynns were married for 17 years and together for 20.
Kathryn had survived cervical cancer more than 25 years ago. She had four surgeries along with radiation and chemotherapy during her battle with colon cancer.
“She had fought it to a standstill twice during those five years,” her husband said. “But it just kept coming back.”
They met when both were in their 40s.
“We had both been married before. Both had bad experiences,” Flynn said. “We had a different type of marriage.
“We did everything together. I was not the type of husband who went to a bar on the way home or went to a ball game or stopped at the club. I went home to my wife. She was there, and she worked at various times throughout our marriage. We worked together at the DMV. We were just constantly together.
“We traveled together. We fished together. There was nothing we did not do as a family.”
Among their activities were five cruises, camping, and trips to Niagara Falls, Amish country in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Myrtle Beach, Williamsburg, Virginia, and West Virginia state parks.
Kathryn’s “all-time favorite job,” her husband noted, was as a crossing guard at Alcan.
“It was getting over there and seeing her kids and talking to her kids,” Flynn said. “She was a great lover of children.”
He strongly recommends the GriefShare program.
“It’s Christian-based, but it’s life-based,” Flynn said. “The video shows the couple who lead the program, but it also interacts with people who are grieving, just like me and the other clients. They appear on the video. They tell their story. ... It’s an orderly pattern of 13 lessons. It’s based on Bible verses and the sayings of these professional people and lay people involved in the program.
“It’s not enough to think the thoughts. There comes a time when you have to voice them.”
He said that “it’s amazing how much help you can get from listening to someone who has been where you are, telling you how they got through it.”
Flynn plans to participate in the upcoming GriefShare program in Fairmont.
“I think my story can help somebody else,” he said.
He took off work on April 3, 2014, on family medical leave to take care of his wife. He went back on July 31 and worked one day before retiring.
“I was there for her every day from April until she passed Nov. 4,” Flynn said. “I was her primary care-taker. I was helped by family. I was helped by Hospice. It was a very rough time. I got up in the morning, and I took care of my wife through the day. I put her to bed at night. I was totally exhausted. In the last three years, I have lost over 60 pounds.
“All my life I’ve wanted to retire. My retirement was already set up when I quit working. But I wanted to retire so my wife and I could do things. Now I am retired, and my partner is gone. I have nobody to do anything with. Occasionally, I go to a movie with a friend or go out to dinner. Life has changed for me. I am trying my best to adapt to the changes.
“What it has done is take all my worries away. I really don’t have a worry about anything.”
He’s confident that “if I’ve got some life left in me, that perhaps I’ll get more to a point of remembering happy, joyful events than the sadness and grief.”
The fee of $20 for the LIFE United Methodist Church GriefShare program includes a workbook, and scholarships are available.
The coordinator is Rita Veasey (304-363-4657). The church can be reached at 304-363-2104 (www.lifeumc.org).
Email Cliff Nichols at firstname.lastname@example.org.