LONG BEACH - "I woke up in the middle of the night a few months ago and went out to the kitchen table and jotted some things down," Ragan Andrew says simply, explaining how the Grief Support Group she facilitates on the Peninsula came into being. "I came up with a mission statement, and we have meetings once a month."
Andrew, a recent graduate of City University and who lost her brother in a tragic traffic accident on the Peninsula several years ago, feels her support group fills a void for those who need to share the grieving process.
She credits Ron and Liz Hylton of Penttila's Chapel by The Sea for giving her many ideas on the grieving process.
Another of Andrew's goals has been to begin a Young Adults Grief Support Group for youths 11 through 18 years old.
"When we had so many suicides among young people a couple of years ago, I felt enough is enough," Andrew relates. "I have decided to do something about this tragic problem." Ilwaco High School junior Holly Hocking will assist Andrew as facilitator for the younger group's meetings.
"I want the support groups to be a safe place where people can talk and realize they are not alone in their feelings of grief, that others feel the same way," Andrew explains. "The group is a support system where you can say as much or as little as you want."
The Grief Support Group has been meeting for six months and has had as many as 14 participants. Andrew begins with a topic and then lets the members and their needs determine the flow of the meeting. She says members may even chose to provide phone numbers and offer emotional support outside meeting times.
Last month's topic was emotional triggers. "We all have them, things that can trigger feelings of grief long after the loss. For me it is a certain song that when it comes on the radio I have to turn it off," the high-energy Andrew shares.
Andrew plans on earning a master's degree in psychology. She uses the Internet for obtaining information used in the meetings. She also has books, pamphlets, and other resource materials available for members.
"The meetings are free and what you do at them is your choice. Just show up and talk or listen," she says. "We have people come from across the river and from Naselle as well as from the Peninsula."
The first Young Adult Grief Support Group meeting is April 21 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at The Coffee House in Ilwaco, located by OleBob's Seafood Market. The next regular meeting is April 14 at 6 p.m. at the Super 8 Motel.
"Everyone is welcome," Andrew relates. "Our message is that it's OK to grieve - that you are not alone. That it's OK to move on after a loss."