Husband and wife pastors Kristin and Tony Oltmann saw a need in the community and now they're trying to fill it.
The Oltman's - Kristin's a pastor at Brainerd's First Lutheran Church and Tony is the chaplain at Good Samaritan Society at Bethany - are starting a grief support group on Monday.
The group, called Growth Through Grief, will deal with all kinds of grief, loss or transition, from the death of a loved one to the loss of a job.
"We've gotten many calls over the years from people looking for a grief group," Kristin said. "It seems like there's a need in the community for people to get together and share their experiences."
The timing couldn't be better. Tony said in this state of recession, the topic of grief "really seems to hit home right now."
The Revs. Kristin and Tony Oltmann are leading a grief support group called Growth Through Grief starting Monday. As pastors, the couple frequently deals with grieving people and they thought starting a support group open to community members would be helpful.
The Oltmanns are no strangers to the grieving process. As a nursing home chaplain, Tony helps families and fellow staff members cope with death frequently.
"Four people passed away this week alone," he said.
When a resident dies, Tony usually spends time working not only with the family members but the Bethany staff members who in many cases are grieving the loss as well.
"I just listen and be available," he said. "Grief is not something to talk your way out of. It takes time."
Kristin presides over funerals at First Lutheran and always follows up with people, especially after they've lost their spouse.
"Grief is not necessarily something you get over, it's something you learn to live with," she said.
Through their pastoral training and classes like one they attended at the Center for Grief, Loss and Transition in St. Paul, the Oltmanns feel prepared to lead the group.
"My wife and I have seen how devastating grief can be," Tony said. "(We've learned) it's not just about surviving, it's about growth."
The couple was looking for a ministry to work on together and decided a support group for grieving people was a good fit.
"It's a common interest that we have," Kristin said.
People experience grief in many different ways, Kristin said, and she hopes people see the support group as a safe place to express their feelings.
"It's helpful to have a place where you don't feel alone and you realize what you're going through is 'normal,'" she said.
Unlike other area grief support groups, people can join the Growth Through Grief group at any time, as long as they call Tony at 829-1407 ext. 592 or Kristin at 829-9552 before coming. It is open to the public, regardless of religious affiliation and meets Mondays at First Lutheran.
HEIDI LAKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5879.
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