VENICE — Tom and Joan Moudy were understandably devastated when one of their adult sons died unexpectedly on New Year’s Eve 2016.

“Losing a parent that’s been sick for a long time, or even a spouse, it’s different when you lose a young child,” said Joan. “We felt we were kind of alone in the grief process because we didn’t know anyone who had experienced what we were going through.”

Attending services at Christ United Methodist Church, they were made aware of a 13-week GriefShare program offered. GriefShare is a national, non-denominational organization that offers grief support through a number of local churches.

To find a list of offerings along the Suncoast, visit the website at:

“We had talked about participating in the program, thinking that it wouldn’t help us,” said Joan. “There was probably no reason to go, but for some reason, we decided to go. And it was a big help.”

Carmen Johnson joined the church’s first class early in 2017, shortly after her sister died of ovarian cancer.

Because they were 11 years apart in age, they had not grown up particularly close. But when Johnson moved to Venice from Ohio in 2007, they ended up living together and becoming best friends since they shared so many interests and hobbies.

“I miss her a lot,” she said. “I took her back up north to be buried. And then, a month later, I had to put my dog down. I went through a lot of stress at the time.”

Rob Montano, one of the facilitators of the program, said there is a tendency when one is grieving to feel they are the only person experiencing those feelings.

“We have found through this course that a group camaraderie forms among the participants and they develop empathy and mutual support for one another. It’s really a wonderful thing to observe.”

When Ginny Derrough’s husband, Tom, died last year, she joined a GriefShare class, not only to help with her own loss, but to also support those who were suffering as well. “When you lose someone, people expect you to ‘get over it.’ People who you love are nothing to get over. They remain part of our lives. Joining others in community who are experiencing loss, we all experience it differently. GriefShare looks at the many, many layers of grief, and it provides so much information, you don’t feel you are strange or that what is happening to you is weird. It’s a group that totally gets it.”

Each of the 13 weekly sessions in the program last for up to two hours and are structured similarly. A session begins with a 40-minute video that addresses that day’s topic. The group then breaks into smaller groups for discussion and sharing. And each participant has their own workbook in which to write down reflections as well as thoughts that may come from the videos or the discussions.

Johnson said participants do not have to share unless they choose to.

“I’m somewhat of an introvert and am not generally comfortable with large groups. Participating in this group, however, did not make me uncomfortable at all,” Johnson said.

All of the former participants interviewed said they view the GriefShare program as a place for healing.

“It reminds us that God never leaves us, that he’s always with us regardless of where we find ourselves,” added Derrough. “The program provides different levels of grief that you don’t consider. There are no stages to grief and there is no timeline to grief. Everybody has their own timeline and we need to give each other the gift of time and not judge one another.”

Montano said a new GriefShare program will be offered at Christ United Methodist Church, beginning at 12:30 p.m., Jan. 9, with registration and the program itself from 1-3 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

There is a cost of $15 for the workbook. The public is invited to register by calling the church office at 941-493-7504.

Larry Humes can be reached at


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