JACKSON – The Office of Family Ministry has partnered with the Health Ministry office to take sculptor and grief counselor Bob Willis on something of a tour of the diocese. Willis will lead his unique grief workshop in five cities in March, Brookhaven, Vicksburg, Clarksdale, Tupelo and Meridian.
Each stop will include a daytime training session from 8:15 a.m. to noon for health professionals and an evening session around 6 or 6:30 p.m. for anyone who may feel the need. Check with the individual parish for exact times. The office is working to make continuing education credits available for the professionals.
“Adapting to change, grief and loss training,” as the workshop is called, will include a look at different forms of grief, theories of how grief progresses, a look at normal responses to grief, a guide to ways to express feelings of loss and will identify and develop referral and community resources.
Willis has a unique presentation style. In addition to presenting the latest research and academics, he sculpts while he speaks. The sculptures, sometimes a broken heart and sometimes a bust of Christ wearing a crown of thorns, help illustrate many of the points he makes.
Willis came to the diocese in 2014 to present at Jackson St. Richard Parish as well as in Brookhaven, where several Faith Community Nurses serve at St. Francis Parish. Cheri Walker is one of those nurses. She said Willis’ presentation was particularly timely. A pair of hospital employees had recently lost family members and the staff had cared for several infants with chronic illnesses.
“We are caregivers in a hospital setting and sometimes we get a bit overwhelmed,” said Walker. She said she learned many useful things from the workshop. One of Willis’ suggestions is to ask a grieving person how he or she met the loved one they lost. “This opens up positive memories, early memories of the love you had. This helps take away the anguish and I think that’s a real gift,” said Walker.
It is important to note that death is not the only form of grief addressed in the workshops. “This is applicable to any major life changes. A child leaving home can cause grief, or a divorce. This is not just about death,” she said.
Willis emphasizes that adjusting to any big change in life can make us feel a sense of loss and stress and this can trigger a grief reaction. He offers strategies for caregivers, grievers and friends to use during times of grief. His work is based in the gospels and he brings scripture and prayer into his workshops as well.
Walker said she learned something every time she saw Willis present and encourages everyone who is a caregiver or feeling some kind of loss or grief to attend.
See the sidebar for dates and locations and registration information.