Church Thanksgiving helps grieving process

Pastor Raenell Crenshaw is one of the authors of a book about grieving the loss of loved ones.

DANVILLE – When Raenell Crenshaw’s 55-year-old husband, Floyd, passed away unexpectedly almost four years ago from undiagnosed cardiovascular disease, it was hard for her to have Thanksgiving and other meals at home without him.

“We stopped having it at home,” Crenshaw said about Thanksgiving dinner.

Her family, which includes birth, adopted and foster children, started having Thanksgiving meals at the Christian Center of Hope in Danville. The church at 401 N. Gilbert St. is where Floyd had been pastor and where now Raenell is pastor.

She said they started meeting at the church with her family and another family.

They now can see about 30 people. They also open up the Thanksgiving dinner to anyone else who needs a place to go.

No one should have to be alone or without food on Thanksgiving, she said.

This year’s dinner at 3 p.m. today will include different foods brought in by the family members, and they also will play games, where they can be goofy and silly, Crenshaw said.

Dealing with grief

Crenshaw has written a chapter called “True Shepherd” in a book about grieving the loss of a loved one.

The book is called U.G.L.Y : Uncovering God's Love for You: Stories of Victory and Triumph Over Grief and Loss.

Authors include Crenshaw and others from Champaign, Springfield, Decatur and elsewhere including Arizona and Ohio.

The book is about “Ten women. Ten moments in time. Ten stories of true resilience. Celebrated for her strength and expected to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, a woman is rarely given the permission or place to grieve. As a mother, daughter, partner, giver and creator, she is supposed to keep going -- to hold herself, her family, and everyone else together without ever stopping to tend to her own heart or tears. Yet, she remarkably always finds the will to continue to make a way. U.G.L.Y II is a glimpse of the lives of 10 women during the darkest hours of their lives. It features a moving collection of stories of survival and strength from women from all walks of life. Faith tested and spirits broken, each woman tells her profoundly personal story of how she overcame the unexpected, discovered a strength she didn't know she had and pieced her peace back together with courage and grace. With passion and honesty, this book encourages us all to be more vulnerable, open and grateful for the gift of life. Each story will inspire you to keep going, to keep praying, and, most importantly to keep living, through life's toughest trials.”

Lead author is Sharva Hampton-Campbell. This volume was released earlier this year. The first volume came out in 2017.

Crenshaw said journaling helped her deal with her grief and she shared some of her experiences.

In her chapter, she says she’s grieved the death of her father, brother, grandparents and others, but “the death of my husband was – and still is – the most significant grief that I’ve ever felt or known. Maybe it was because when I lost him, I didn’t just lose one part of my life.”

Her life fully changed.

She, her children and church members underwent grief counseling.

Her “sister-friend” Tamera Forthenberry at her workplace, the Housing Authority of the City of Danville, also was invaluable.

Crenshaw said her advice to others dealing with grief is to “be transparent and be vulnerable.”

She said Forthenberry helped her at work. Forthenberry knew when Crenshaw had to go cry or had to go home early.

“I didn’t have to hide,” Crenshaw said about her grief, and about being able to talk to Forthenberry.

“Make sure you have that support,” Crenshaw added, about family members and friends.

She said it could even be someone to just hold the phone and listen to you or help you fall asleep.

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