Life after Loss: Group out to conquer the grief of loss

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 8, 2004

Maybe it’s her training as a Registered Nurse. More than 30 years of caring for other people can make you sensitive that way. Or perhaps it’s just her nature.

But since she retired as division director for patient care service at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital back in 1994, Luverne Ratliff couldn’t help but notice how many hurting people she met in her daily rounds. People who have suffered a devastating loss of some kind and are having trouble dealing with that loss.

Sometimes the sense of loss is so overwhelming that they’re afraid to leave their homes. Sometimes it’s even enough to make them physically ill.

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Ratliff began to talk to friends and fellow church members at First Baptist Church. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, they said, if those people had somewhere to go, a place where they could get a cup of coffee and find a sympathetic ear.

That’s the genesis of Life After Loss, a loosely knit group of people that will meet the first Monday of each month at First Baptist Church.

“Grief is such a neglected thing in our society,” Ratliff says. “All your friends and relatives visit when you first suffer a loss. But after awhile you find yourself facing that loss alone.”

It is to prevent that feeling of facing things alone that Ratliff — along with June and Vern Humble, Sarah McBrayer and others — got the idea for Life After Loss.

“We’ve realized for a long time that there were people not only in our church but all over Demopolis who have experienced a loss of some kind,” Ratliff says. “We just felt like there was a need for this sort of ministry.”

Of course, the death of a loved one is what most people think about when they think about grief. But, as Ratliff points out, people can suffer all kinds of losses.

“I had to retire because of poor health,” she says. “There’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss it. Nursing is what I loved to do most in this world. And that’s why we decided to call it ‘Life After Loss.’ We didn’t want to call it a grief support group … because we wanted to include all types of losses.”

Ratliff promises that things won’t be too tightly structured. Plans are for Bambi Hamilton, a licensed counselor, to offer a short, informal talk on various aspects of the grief process at each meeting. Mostly, though, it will be a time for those who have suffered a loss of some kind to fellowship with others who understand what they are going through.

“We might have refreshments, we might not,” Ratliff says. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to do the people who come any good. But maybe they can do each other some good. It helps to talk, I know that.

“The main thing is to get these people out, make them feel like they’re part of things again. If they can’t come up here, we’ll go get them. Because when you help somebody, you always get more out of it than the other person did. That’s the way it was with Jesus.”

Life After Loss will hold its first meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church. There is no charge. Those needing transportation may call the church office at 289-0473.