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Healing words
Lecture series designed to help those coping with loss
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GRIEF IS A natural human response, but those who go through it often don't realize what they're feeling is normal.

Island Hospice and Jewish Family Services of Savannah will present a four-week series of seminars, Grief: Healing the Broken Heart: Walking the Pathway of Loss, Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26 at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Educational Alliance. The sessions are titled Normal Grief Reactions, How Men and Women Grieve, Recovery is Possible! and Finding Meaning in Death.

“They’re going to be held every Tuesday in the month of August, free and open to the public,” says Larry Dane-Kellogg of Jewish Family Services. “They’re not connected. We certainly hope some people might feel the need to attend all of them, but each one stands on its own.

“Periodically, we do various types of community training and community interest types of things,” he says. “We have a parenting series that will start in September. When we do these presentations, the more people who take advantage of them, the better.”

The sessions will be presented by Dr. Owen E. Tucker, M.Ed.,D.Min., Grief Coordinator at Island Hospice in Beaufort. “There are four basic fundamentals,” Tucker says.

“First, you have to understand what normal grief is. Second, you have to look at the differences in how people grieve. There are major differences between men and women.

“Third, we’ll look at what are some specific things people can do to help themselves recover,” he says. “Fourth, what are the key resources. For most people, one of most basic resources is the dimension of spirituality.

“That doesn’t mean a specific religion,” Tucker says. “Any time we experience loss, it creates a search for meaning. How do we make sense out of death?”

Loss can take many forms other than death, including divorce, or watching a spouse or parent suffer from Alzheimer’s. Tucker says people who have faced any type of loss can benefit from attending the seminars. “People who’ve been transplanted from some other place can often go through a time of grieving the loss of friends, family, familiar places,” he says.

“President Reagan lasted something like 10 years,” Tucker says. “Nancy Reagan had to be telling him goodbye and taking care of him for 10 years. Empty nesters who’ve lost children through the natural process also grieve.”

If grief is not addressed, the person can go into a deep and lasting depression and can feel anxiety. “I compare it to an athlete who has experienced an injury in a game,” Tucker says. “They have to do workouts and get strength back. Grief work is that kind of process.”

People who have been married a long time may never completely recover from a loss. “The loss of children, especially younger children, is something parents never fully get over,” Tucker says. “But you can get a whole lot better. There will always be some scar tissue there, but it won’t be sore and won’t be hurting and aching like it did at one time.”

A pastor, Tucker has experienced grief through church members, and he has worked in trauma centers and military hospitals. “My interest was prompted by what I could do to help those people,” he says.

“To me, when somebody’s going through a heavy loss, it’s a kind of sacred honor to walk with them through that experience. They’re opening their heart and life to you, and that’s pretty special.”

The most important thing anyone can do for a bereaved person is to be there for them, Tucker says. “Be supportive to them, and do a lot of listening,” he says. “ Do not tell them, ‘It’s okay, you’re going to get over it.’

“I remember one lady I worked with who had lost a child as an infant 44 years ago,” Tucker says. “She came to one of my grief groups. Everyone had told her she was young, she could have more babies.

“She said, ‘I was trying to honor that life that was lost.’ She carried that with her for 44 years.”

In his work, Tucker covers Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head, all of Savannah and Chatham County, even up into Effingham, Bulloch and Liberty counties. “I do 1,500 to 2,000 miles a month,” he says.

“I just hope those who are going through some grief will come out and give this a shot and see if it’s helpful,” Tucker says. “Grief is very universal to the human experience.”