When my cousin Charetta Walls lost her husband Billy in October of 2020 following a massive heart attack she was devastated. In addition to dealing with the shock and grief, she had to plan a funeral during a pandemic, handle her personal affairs and help their daughter process the loss. She was assisted during this time by a long time friend of hers, Julia Jones, who like Charetta was a widow, a former educator and a graduate of East Carolina University.

When Julia’s husband died suddenly five years ago there was no support system for widows and she was forced to deal with the grief process by herself. As a result she says, God placed it on her heart to start a grief counseling and support ministry for widows in her area of Greenville, North Carolina. “Charetta was one of them, after I found out she had lost her husband I reached out to her. We had always been in each others lives as passing ships in the night so to speak and we had a spirit connection like we had always known each other. We could see each other after months and we could pick up like we’d know each other so when her husband passed I reached out to her to let her know I was here that I understood and that I would walk that walk with her because I had already gone that way.” Mrs. Jones shared.

Most of her support activities were informal but she and Charetta decided to create a formal counseling service, get registered and become a licensed non-profit service provider. “It really wasn’t our plan to start a formal process getting paperwork and all that because that was not what our focus is, it was mainly to reach out to widows and support them, and it’s not a business per se.” said Mrs. Jones.  “In the event we received any donations we definitely needed paperwork in place for that in terms of being a non-profit” added Mrs. Walls.

In addition to their immediate social networks they have been reaching out to women they did not know to offer support and counseling which could have been challenging during a health crisis. “Actually it has not been difficult. At this point we have about eighteen widows and during COVID people have experienced losses and we have supported those widows. We didn’t know we would end up with eighteen widows it just happened.” shared Mrs. Walls.

“Through daily conversations talking to women we learned about women who lost their husbands. I met a woman in my hairstylists shop and she was casually talking about how she was selling her husband business truck and we struck up a conversation. It’s not hard to find out and because of COVID people want to share and communicate.” said Mrs. Jones.

COVID restrictions have forced them to become resourceful and find ways to counsel and support the women they shore up. Julia and Charetta attended a virtual grief counseling session prior to the Christmas holiday and it was very sad. So they determined to help the women they were counseling make it through that season. They encouraged them to decorate their homes and showed some how to string lights outside their homes.

Julia and Charetta also assist the women to become more self-sufficient. “There are widows who don’t know how to put gas in their cars or how to pay bills. Each widow has different circumstances, the goal is to show widows how to move from point A to point B and as Julia said it can just be daily conversations. The eighteen that we have, it wasn’t because we had set up shop it was because of circumstances.” shared Walls.

Julia and Charetta use the technology available to them to reach out to their widows during COVID restrictions: they text, they call, they drive by, they use social distancing when they visit. “Every widow doesn’t know how to Zoom or Skype but they do know how to text. Texting to me has been a way to let them know someone is going to check on them on a regular basis to see how they are doing.” stated Julia Jones. “We E-mail people; we’d give them tips about what to do. Some widows felt very alone just going through the process of picking out things for a (funeral) service, we shared a list of what to do and we’d give them that type of support even if they were at the funeral home. We would print out information and drop it off at the front door or in the mailbox.” Mrs. Walls shared.

The ladies know every situation is different so they are flexible and empathetic with the women. They realize things change after the funeral when all the people are gone and the women are left alone. The COVID situation has exacerbated the psychological stresses of grief, planning a service and adjusting not only to the loss of a loved one but also the ordeal of navigating life during a major health crisis.

The ladies have set up a Website https://www.asunnyday.org, they provide workshops, grief counseling and coaching and wellness coaching. They are planning retreats and trips contingent on their area’s COVID restrictions. Their target dates for the retreats are in June but again that depends on the COVID restrictions. They are willing to share what they are doing with others who may want to replicate their services. For more information about A Sunny Day Grief Counseling and Support Services you can contact them via their Website or E-mal them at asunnydaygc@gmail.com.