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Healing: When you lose a spouse…this group may help

by Nancy Hamlett

Most organizations are formed to fill a need in a community, and this is also the objective of The Record-Courier’s organization for March, WOW.HELP, a support group for widows and widowers.

The loss of a spouse is a life-altering situation. First there are grief and the outpouring of support by family and friends. But after a time, the support wanes or the person who has lost the husband or wife doesn’t want to burden friends any longer.

According to Stevie Henderson, the founder of WOW.HELP, that is when a support group can be the most beneficial.

“There are excellent support groups that deal with bereavement in general, but they don’t address the issues that are specific to losing your life’s partner,” said Henderson, who lost her husband 4-1/2 years ago. “Not only have you lost someone you love, but you have lost your partner, your best friend and your dreams for the future that you shared. Your entire focus shifts, and this is a very difficult situation.”

Henderson said that after her official “mourning period,” friends urged her to get on with her life. But she wasn’t sure what her life was anyone.

“I knew who I used to be, and that was part of a team. However, I didn’t know who I was as a widow. That’s when I realized that I needed companionship and fellowship,” said Henderson.

The result is WOW.HELP. After several church members were lost to age and illness, Henderson felt that it was an appropriate time for a bereavement group at the church for widows and widowers. After consulting with her pastor, Pete Nelson, the group started meeting in May 1999.

“Rev. Nelson recommended that I start small until the group’s feet were on the ground,” said Henderson. “We’ve accomplished that, and now we have opened the support group up to everyone. We still meet at the (Carson Valley United) Methodist Church, but it is not specifically church-related. Faith is important to healing, and a thread of faith runs through our meetings. But it isn’t overt and it is strictly non-denominational.”

As five or six people entered the meeting room, they greeted each other warmly. These weren’t people that were meeting to complain or to feel sorry. They were there to learn how to cope with the day-to- day business of continuing to live a productive life without their partners.

According to statistics, the number one stress in life is the loss of a husband or wife. WOW.HELP is there to alleviate some of that stress.

“Our goal isn’t recovery, because recovery indicates that things are back they way they were, and that will never be the case,” said Henderson. “When you get a deep cut, you heal. There will be a scar, so you aren’t back to the way things were before, but you no longer have the cut. We are healing.”

Each person deals with the loss of a husband or wife in a different manner, and Henderson said that there is no right or wrong way.

“We offer a forum to offer solutions to problems, to share sorrow and to offer encouragement,” said Henderson. “These are more than emotional issues.”

“Like learning how to change batteries,” said one member of the group.

“I was a caregiver to my husband for seven years,” said another. “Not only have I lost him, I defined myself as his caregiver, and I no longer have that role in life.”

“Life is one challenge after another,” said Henderson. “We meet together to gain strength from each other, to be supportive and to let people know that they are not alone.”

WOW.HELP meets every Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Carson Valley United Methodist Church, 1375 Centerville Lane in Gardnerville. The group is also interested in facilitating an additional evening time if enough people are interested.

For information call 782-4600 or 265-4066.