Healing Hearts: Group finds hope for the grieving

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Sonya Owens thanks guest speaker Davin Phillips for his participation in a newly formed grief support group: Healing Hearts2 together. Phillips is a chaplain and bereavement coordinator with Community Home Care & Hospice in Elizabeth City. The group session was held at the Fairfield Inn on June 4.


By Kesha Williams

Sunday, June 10, 2018

After three years of grieving the unexpected loss of her son, Sonya Owens is ready to share her story with other grieving residents.

Last month, she launched a grief support group, Healing Hearts 2gether. Initially, she thought it would appeal to grieving mothers. She recalls placing an announcement in the newspaper then receiving calls from people who were curious about the group’s purpose. Some wondered if there was a charge for attendance. Some revealed their lifestyles had been significantly altered by their grief.

The group met for the second time Tuesday in the conference room of the Fairfield Inn.

Owens learned that people are grieving for various reasons. For her dear friend, Lisa Johnson, the grief centered around the 2017 loss of a niece who was accidentally shot. Johnson gladly assisted Owens with the coordination of the group to prompt recovery for other residents. They were relieved when guest speaker Davin Phillips, a chaplain and bereavement coordinator with Community Home Care & Hospice, opened the meeting with encouraging words.

“I appreciate you being brave, coming together with other people who have experienced loss. Grief can feel like an unbearable pain, a combination of emotions,” Phillips explained.

“When they are grieving, people experience feelings that are not part of the everyday life. Things can get better for you. You can experience healing. You may have to have more that one person to talk to but you can experience healing,” Phillips said.

Phillips reviewed common reactions associated with grief — shock, denial, anger, guilt, depression and acceptance. He emphasized the final phase growth. During that stage, people recover in different ways. Some people find new ways to invest in personal relationships. Others, he noted like Owens, focus on ways to help others.

“I appreciate her vision for this group. Not everyone who goes through pain and suffering of a loss can turn it into something like this,” Phillips said.

Owens’s son, Adrian, suffered a traumatic brain injury after a car wreck. Thereafter, she managed his schedule of three a week dialysis treatments for three years. She oversaw the medications designed to address multiple health problems that followed. She’d worked as a nurse for years so care giving was within her skill base. She’d also taken care of her ailing mother for 13 years.

After Adrian died at the age of 26, Owens and her daughter were left to wander down an unpredictable trail of grief. She later heard from grieving parents who’d lost children or grandchildren to gun violence. They knew she understood the pain of losing someone dear and near to your heart. Tuesday, she told the 12 people in the audience, they certainly were not not alone.

“I don’t want people to feel like they have to suffer alone. I want this to be a community effort. We can get through this together. We will have meetings once a month with different speakers more often if it becomes necessary. Sometimes we will go out for outings. If we hold special events in the future to help people deal with their pain, we’ll announce it.” Owens said.

Owens explained she found a few ways to relieve her stress and renew her commitment to recovery. She enjoys simple pleasures such as reading mysteries, having a pedicure or a manicure. Though they aren’t as common as they were in the past, she retreats home for a day of personal reflection or watching a favorite network.

Owens started a cleaning business and operates it in Raleigh. She returns to Elizabeth City to connect with people here. She realizes healing may take more time for some than others. Most of all, she declared a good support network is critical to your growth and recovery from grief.

Johnson said her 10-year friendship with Owens allowed her to openly share her feelings and to plan the grief support meetings. She comes from a large family and has witnessed elderly family members die following an illness. Unlike elderly family members who’s health led to their death, her niece’s sudden death was especially difficulty to manage. She too seeks healing during these meetings.

“When people come, they will find we are like family. The first meeting was more of a meet and greet. Tonight, most people chose to listen and talk a little at the meeting. People who come will find we are going through the same thing," Johnson said.