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Grace over Grief: Widows invited to join support ministry

NEW ORLEANS – Life became a lot harder for Joyce Mitchell when she lost her husband of 51 years on Valentine’s Day 2019. Suddenly faced with a tremendous hole in her life, she sought support from those navigating the same journey, hoping others could relate to her thoughts and feelings.

When Mitchell was called to start a ministry for widows in the spring, she was met with love and understanding from a group of River Parishes ladies who taught her the most reassuring message of all: “You Are Not Alone.”

Grace Over Grief ministry will hold its first conference at 10 a.m. Sept. 28 at Chateau Menteur, located at 6726 Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans. There is no cost to attend the conference. However, Mitchell said guests are required to register by calling 985-359-1460  prior to Sept. 13 to secure an accurate headcount.

Pastor Laurie Adams of Voice of Truth Ministry of LaPlace will serve as guest speaker to shed light on her own experiences as a widow. According to Mitchell, the event will also include a question and answer session with a cardiologist who will speak about the impact of stress.

Widows will be the guests of honor at the conference, and Grace Over Grief board members will be present to serve lunch. Several songs have been picked out for the occasion, including “Lean On Me” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to remind the ladies there will always be someone in their corner.

The conference will conclude with a heartwarming surprise, Mitchell said.

The first Grace Over Grief Spring Luncheon included a beautiful display of decorations and sweet treats for 14 ladies in attendance.

While no one is required to stand up and share her life story, Mitchell said everyone can benefit from being in an environment of unity and compassion.

When her husband passed, Mitchell struggled to find a grief counseling program that was directly catered to the unique hardships of losing a spouse.

“I was looking for something to specifically address my needs as a widow,” Mitchell said. “I found out there were other women I knew who were widows, so I had a luncheon. We shared and we talked. By the time all 14 of those ladies finished talking, it was an awesome feeling. I didn’t have to go through long dissertations because someone would say, ‘Oh, I know. I’ve been there. I know how you feel, and this is what helped me.’”

The luncheon inspired Mitchell to take Grace Over Grief a step further. By growing the ministry, she wants to create a network of women who can share their stories and shed light on what they have done to progress through the heartache.

There are currently 22 members of Grace Over Grief, and Mitchell said monthly meetings in the River Parishes will be organized following the conference in New Orleans. Because there is no timeline for grief, some members lost their husband as recently as one month ago, while one member has been a widow for 26 years.

“There are people like you,” Mitchell said. “There are ladies like you. We have ladies coming to the conference from New Orleans, the West Bank. Someone is coming from Alexandria. The word is getting out, and it’s so needed. When I lost my husband, I didn’t know which way to turn. I felt alone, even though my friends and children were here. Until you lose a spouse, you don’t know the feeling. It meant a lot to hear, ‘I know.’”

Registration forms for the conference have been distributed to several local churches.

While Grace Over Grief is Christian-based, widows do not have to be a member of the church to receive support.

As Grace Over Grief grows, Mitchell said she will find a way to lend support to men who have lost a spouse.

For more information, please call 985-359-1460.