By Kristin Boza
Grief takes many paths, all of which are specific to the person doing the grieving. When a loved one dies, it’s often difficult to find healthy ways to cope.
Tom Bianciotto knows that grief, which he experienced after the unanticipated death of his wife, Sandy, in February 2020. Working through his grief inspired him to bring a local chapter of GriefShare, a national program based in North Carolina, to Christ the King Parish (CK) and open the group sessions to anyone needing to talk about the death of a spouse, parent, sibling, or child.
Sandy Bianciotto received a partial liver transplant from her son, Jack, in 2019. While the transplant worked, other unforeseen issues arose with her health, and she eventually passed away after a long hospital stay.
“Obviously, that was a long, terrible endurance. After that experience, I was looking for a support group and was directed by a friend to Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, which used the GriefShare program,” Bianciotto said. “In August 2020, there was a meeting at Christ the King to figure out which ministries to offer, and I suggested a grief ministry. I was asked to lead it and we held our first session in January 2022.”
CK GriefShare is a 13-session program, each meeting lasting for an hour and 45 minutes. Each session focuses on a different topic; the group watches a video and utilizes an accompanying workbook before breaking out into smaller groups to share and discuss.
Usually, 12 to 15 people attend each session, with breakout groups composed of 6 to 8 people.
“Most people are hurting badly and looking for relief. CK GriefShare is Christian-based, but anyone from any background is welcome to attend,” Bianciotto said. “Although I facilitate, this is not about me. I just found myself in this circumstance and was guided into doing this. After Sandy died, my feeling was that I would never leave anybody to go through this alone if I could help someone.”
Many people find comfort in knowing they’re not alone in their grief journey.
“It’s helpful to be in an environment where you can feel all of your pain and express it to people who comprehend it. CK GriefShare helps people work through some issues safely and comfortably. There is always a lot of empathy during our sessions,” Bianciotto said. “This group is the last place you want to find yourself, but it’s great to be there. It takes courage to come and open yourself up to it. Any of the misery you feel in grieving is normal and you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable because that’s what it will feel like for a pretty long time.”
Participants are welcome to attend multiple sessions; although the videos and workbook will be the same, the sharing and discussion breakouts will differ depending on who is present. The next session begins on Tues., Jan. 31 in the basement of the Christ the King rectory, 9235 S. Hamilton Ave. All of the details, once finalized, will be at GriefShare.org; search “Find a Group” and input 60643. Questions? Email Tom Bianciotto at GriefShare@CKChicago.org.