Release graduation

Published 3:03 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

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Grief-support group meets every Tuesday

For a small group of women, Tuesdays have become more than just a day of the week.

Release, a grief support class, meets on the second floor of the 21 North Building in Atmore. Natalie Thompson founded the class in 2020.

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“Leilani Mason gave me an opportunity out of her building to do a group grief class on April 4, 2023, and it’s been such a reward to see the lives being healed and set free,” Thompson said.

Thompson said she began her release journey out of her home church at McCullough Christian Center in February 2020, and transitioned to Facebook after COVID.

Thompson said she went through a grief share program that was brought to her church after the passing of her son, Brendon Jackson, who passed away from an aneurysm in 2018.

“I talked with the Lord about me helping others come from this place of grief,” Thompson said. “I asked Him for a name, and he gave me the name, Release. I looked it up and it means to be able to come from a place to be set free. To escape.”

Thompson added that the class isn’t just based off of just a loss of a loved one.

“There’s grief in divorce, grief in separation of friendships, there’s grief in losing your home, grief in repossession of cars,” she said. “There’s grief even in the loss of pets.”

On Nov. 6, five class members were celebrated for completing the grief-sharing class.

“Natalie has created a safe space for us to share indescribable heartache,” Jessica Cloud said. “With her guidance, we support each other and help one another move through the stages of grief.

“She also helps us identify coping skills and provides hope for the future,” she added. “I am grateful for unwavering love and support as grief is not linear.”

For Atmore native Emily Fayard, the class has helped her get through a divorce.

“It’s helped me immensely,” Fayard said. “It means a lot just to have support of the group, and understanding of loss in life. My loss has been a little different from the others. My loss was divorce, and my life felt derailed.

“This group has helped me immensely in keeping me on my feet, with my faith and still seeing the positivity to come through dark moments,” she said. “It’s also helped remind me that there’s always a reason for a season. It’s always good to have a support system through those moments.”

Having a good support system helped Angela Boatwright, who lost her husband.

“Everybody’s pretty much going through the same thing, but our journeys are different,” Boatwright said. “I’ve gotten a lot better with my (speaking).”

Thompson chimed in, adding that Boatwright has grown a lot through the class.

“The grief was almost drowning her,” Thompson said. “I don’t’ think it’s as bad now like it was. There was a point where you couldn’t breathe.”

Peggy Kenney said the class has helped her faith in God grow.

“The biggest thing for me when I first came, was that I felt so alone,” she said. “The loneliness is one of the worst things. The loneliness is the worst thing anyone can have and do.”

Kenney said in dealing with her loneliness through the group, she realized there are others that share the same pain.

“To me, the biggest thing I’m learning is that word over there, Release,” she said. “Today, it’s hit me like a ton of bricks. Release is letting go. God said, ‘Let it go.’ I cried a lot, and it’s been seven and a half, almost eight months, since my husband passed. I cried a lot, and it seemed like a good time to talk. I began to see that you’re not alone. Everybody in here has gone through similar circumstances.”

Like Kenney, Mona Atallah said her faith has helped her grieve the loss of her husband.

“I was glad to get to know Mrs. Thompson, and be able to grow,” Atallah said. “It was so nice to have our stories joined together, and see what others are feeling. I thank Angela, we’ve had some times together, and had good fellowship.”

Atallah said even when her husband was suffering, he wanted others to know Christ and be saved.

“My faith kept me going,” she said. “He was trusting God, and when he was suffering a lot, he would say, ‘Lord, let me rest in you.’”

Release meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. and lasts until around 5:30 p.m. The 21 North Building is located at 3421 Hwy. 21 North, Atmore, AL 36502.