GriefShare is an international grief recovery support group, frequently led by people who have lost a spouse, a child, a relative or friend. Founded in 1998, the lay-led program has changed the lives of those dealing with loss.

First Baptist Church in South Boston has new sessions starting soon, led by Mary Eanes.

In 2015, Mary and Fred Eanes suffered the loss of their daughter, Jennifer Eanes Holder, to cancer. She was only 43, and she had been diagnosed just six months previously. The shock and loss all happened so quickly that it was almost hard to comprehend how fast their lives changed.

Four months after Jennifer’s death, Shelley Ramsey invited Mary to attend a session at Grace Baptist Church that she and her husband, Phil, were leading.

It changed her life.

Eanes said, “When I started going to GriefShare, I felt as though my world had been turned upside down. I felt as if I were in a deep pit of depression with no way out. Listening to the videos and participating in the group discussions gave me the tools needed to pull myself out of that pit of despair.”

Eanes said the lessons helped her to see the love of God even in her time of great sadness.

At that point, Eanes approached her minister at the time, Bob Ballance, and suggested First Baptist Church offer the program there. Ballance told her that because of her own experience with loss, he felt she would be a good person to facilitate the group.

Eanes prayed about it and felt at that point that she was being called to this ministry. She held her first cycle in 2016, and she has led two complete 13-week sessions each year since. Last year, she started offering both daytime and evening sessions to meet the needs of those with different schedules.

Those who have gone through the program with Eanes offer heartfelt encouragement.

One person who has attended is Barbara Ann Francis, who lost her husband a year ago. She said, “GriefShare was a God-send to me. It helped me to understand that everything that I was experiencing was normal.”

She continued, “Mary Eanes is amazing. Her strength and leadership touched my heart. I left each meeting knowing that with God’s help and the sessions, I wasn’t alone.”

Another participant last year was Dan River WEE School Director Karen S. Smith, who lost her son, Evan, just a year ago.

Smith said, “The program has been instrumental in my healing. The meetings provide a safe place to share our grief, and although our grief is different, we all share the journey.”

Other local people have gone through the sessions in other places before they were offered here. A local Pampered Chef trainer, Karen C. Smith, attended sessions in Creedmoor, North Carolina, in 2014 and 2015.

She said, “It saved my life. I was having such a difficult time moving on after my dad’s death, and GriefShare put my broken heart back together.

“It allowed me to accept what I couldn’t change and live with the amazing years of memories. It truly helped me to go on living my life again. I’m so glad the program is offered here now,” she added.

One local person who also has taken advantage of the program is Brenda Powell, who said, “Sharing with others who had lost loved ones was comforting, and support from the group was very rewarding. We are so blessed that Mary Eanes has been willing to make this program possible here in our community at First Baptist.”

Men attend sessions also. Charles Parrett is one who has attended with Eanes.

He said, “The program is definitely needed. It’s very worthwhile and helped me to get through a lot after I lost my father-in-law and my wife to cancer. I never knew what it really meant to lose someone until my wife got sick, and God took her home with Him almost a year ago.”

He continued, “I have been up at nights spending hours trying to figure out what to do now. I talk to God and hope He will help me understand what death is and ‘why.’ Mary Eanes is a tough lady to go through what she did and then turn around and help others. She looks out for those of us in the sessions, checks on us.”

Eanes is offering new sessions beginning soon. On Saturday, Sept. 7, there will be a one-day seminar called Loss of Spouse, focusing on ways to cope with the loss of one’s partner. The hours are 10 a.m. to noon at First Baptist Church at 815 North Main Street in South Boston. Light refreshments will be served, and there is no charge, and each participant will receive a free workbook.

Then, beginning Monday, Sept. 9, there will be a new cycle of 13 weekly sessions, offered at two different times during the day at First Baptist.

Eanes offers the one-hour sessions at 1 in the afternoon and at 6:30 p.m. There is no charge for the sessions or the workbook each person will receive.

The sessions are open to anyone who has lost a spouse, parent, sibling, child or any other loved one. It can be hard for people grieving to step out of their homes or comfort zones when they are grieving, but most people say that coming even once helps them enough to know that they want to come back again to complete the whole program.