One year later, Wilton church using grief counseling to help people cope with COVID

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church is hosting a grief and coping webinar on March 18 to aid its congregation in moving forward through a year riddled with loss.

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church is hosting a grief and coping webinar on March 18 to aid its congregation in moving forward through a year riddled with loss.

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church / Contributed Photo

WILTON — In a year riddled with loss, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton has decided to help the community cope through a webinar on how to handle grief, especially while being seperated from the rest of the congregation.

The church is partnering with the Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families, based in Portland, Ore. The webinar will run on March 18 in two sessions from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. with a short break in between.

“This past year has caused so much loss and chaos and struggle in our community,” said the Rev. Marissa Rohrbach. “Especially with our congregation in particular. We have experience a lot this past year, including deaths by suicide. We also wanted to offer training to our staff internally on how to handle such loss.”

Rohrbach said the staff from the Dougy Center have been extremely helpful and the lessons to cope are completely taught by them. She hopes to guide her congregation toward the right steps to healthily coping with this past year’s loss.

“There has been a lot of loss — the loss of connection and community is a big one,” she said. “Our children have experienced all kinds of losses with school. Even just loss of just a regular routine. Losses like that that are broad, but every family has experienced something in our community.”

The first session in the webinar focuses broadly on loss during COVID-19 in the family unit. It provides tips to cope and move forward, even while the community may be fragmented due to continuing social distancing measures. Rohrbach said addressing that grief head on is the first step in healing, and is why she is urging community members to attend.

The second session focuses on suicide prevention.

“We need to help point people toward these resources,” Rohrbach said.

“Being a calming factor during this time, as a church in the community, well, we want to be a resource and a neighbor to the community. We understand ourselves to be a fabric of the whole town and community,” she added. “I’m really delighted that this is something we can make available. I’m always here for the people and we are always available for them to speak with, especially during this pandemic.”

Rohrbach said she has heard the struggles from certain congregation members about worshipping during COVID-19, such as some experiencing a “disconnect” from having to participate in some services online.

“We can’t sing, pray and hug each other and be together like we used to. There is a subset of people where that has been a real challenge for them,” Rohrbach said. “There is also another group, though, where being able to just open their laptop at home has freed them up to be more available for evening conversations and services, and some have deepened their faith.

As vaccines are beginning to become available for more age groups, she said sees hope coming from the community.

“The first big challenge of pandemic is that life went on. People died, marriages still struggled, families still had sick kids. It just became much more difficult to address all of these now with the limitations from the pandemic,” she said. “I know a lot of people are impatient. But now, there seems to be some excitement and hope.”