STILLWATER – Of all the difficult things life throws at people, the death of a loved one is one of the hardest. Whether it’s a spouse, child, sibling, parent or friend, learning to carry on without them can feel like too much to ask.
Dot Danel, wife of Stillwater icon “Whisperin’ Richard” Danel who operated Varsity Barbershop for 57 years, experienced it when her husband of 64 years died in August 2016.
“It’s easy for people to get stuck,” she said.
Danel found a program called Grief Share that she credits with helping her begin the process of rebuilding her life as Dot after six decades of being half of “Richard and Dot.”
Grieving is a process that takes time and isn’t neat or easy and Danel says she’s still processing her loss but she’s glad a program like Grief Share has been there to help.
The program is biblically-based and offered exclusively through churches but it’s non-denominational and open to people of all faiths or no faith.
“It’s not just for people who go to church,” Danel said. “You don’t have to be a churchy person to come but we all are looking for some place to gain strength.”
She had some difficulty finding an active Grief Share program when she needed it and realized the program isn’t offered continuously.
She got so much benefit from the program that after completing it she was inspired to ask her church, First Baptist Church in Stillwater, to sponsor a group and potentially shorten the time people have to wait between sessions.
“Waiting for months feels like a long time when someone is waiting for help,” she said.
Other programs offered through hospice organizations and even funeral homes provide support and comfort, but Danel says the ones she’s seen are usually short-term.
People aren’t always surrounded by friends and family anymore and even if they are, other people have to return to their lives after a few weeks.
It’s easy to feel alone and overwhelmed.
“Maybe the person who died was the person you depended on,” she said.
Grief Share is a 13-week program designed specifically for people who have lost a loved one through death. It consists of instructional videos, a workbook with readings and exercises and group sessions It’s facilitated by people who understand because they have also grieved the death of a loved one.
The $20 workbook is the only expense and participants are encouraged to come back as many times as they want to, at no additional cost.
Danel says all three elements of the program work together.
“You form a bond with that group of people,” she said. “It gives you an opportunity to talk about the grief you’re going through and realize you’re not alone … Sometimes you don’t feel like talking and you don’t have to. If you do talk, and it can take some people a few weeks to open up, it’s ok to cry.”
Although she says she’s not someone who usually likes workbooks, Danel found the journaling and exercises to be very helpful. The exercises focus on different aspects of healing, like emotional, physical and social well-being.
“I didn’t answer all the questions on paper, but I answered them in my mind,” she said. “You can go back and review the workbook even months later and see the progress you’ve made … I would look at questions and realize I would answer that differently today.”
Danel said she’s learned grief isn’t something you get over. It's something you get through.
Some days the loss catches up with you and you find yourself crying again. But eventually you start to build a new normal.
“You go through 13 weeks and you’re not going to be healed, but you’re going to be much better,” she said.
Charles writes for the Stillwater News Press.