NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Today, Jim and Judy Buckingham laugh, travel, have fun with grandchildren, and grieve. Yes, grieve.
It's a life long journey the Buckinghams began eight years ago with the sudden loss of their son Jordan.
"At first it was really hard for me to say it out loud - that my son suffered from alcoholism," said Judy Buckingham, a grief support group facilitator.
"And one night, he got drunk, passed out in his car, and the sun came up, and the heat killed him," said Dr. Jim Buckingham, a grief support group facilitator "That's when we got the phone call, one Sunday afternoon."
Suddenly the psychiatrist and the caring mother felt unfamiliar emotions.
"I'm a psychiatrist, but until you've gone through it, you have no clue," Jim said.
"I thought I would never be happy again," Judy said. "I thought I really couldn't survive it."
Prior to Jordan's death, Al-anon Family Groups, a support group for families of problem drinkers, had been guiding the Buckinghams in Dallas.
With their son gone, the couple knew they wanted a similar support group closer to home.
"But there wasn't one in Nacogdoches," Jim said.
So they read books and interviewed grief group leaders. Judy attended bereavement courses at the Center for Loss in Colorado.
Within months, the grieving parents were beginning a grief support group. The couple believes their work is a calling from God, but the analytical psychiatrist needed convincing.
"I'd always been skeptical about being called to do something, but this time I really think that was the case," Jim said.
The grief support signs were placed. Would anyone come, the Buckinghams wondered. Twice a year, meetings held for 10 weeks have filled up.
"It's such a tremendous outreach to people who are really, really needing support," said Scott Waller, a grief support member.
Waller became a member after losing his wife to illness.
"After my wife passed away I started experiencing a wide range of emotions with an intensity that I had never felt," Waller said. "And it was, it was kinda scary."
Yet it was normal, as the Buckinghams discover when group members share their similar experiences.
"Grief is different, but the emotions are all the same," Judy said. "We all still feel fear and loneliness and anger and guilt. And it's that sharing, that connection that really does bring the healing out."
The goal is a happy life. Groups often develop bonds and have frequent get-togethers.
"Works best in a private home because I'm afraid we might be a bit too rowdy for a public restaurant because we do like to laugh so much," Waller said.
The Buckinghams, too, laugh with one another. England is a favorite destination where their daughter and her family live. The granddaughters bring the biggest smiles.
However, they never, ever will forget Jordan.
"We can have joy. We do a lot of things now," Jim said. "Do we get sad sometimes about Jordan? Yes, we do. We always will. But you reach a new normal."
"I've forgiven Jordan," Judy said. "You know, I've forgiven the situation. I've come to a peace with it.">
Jim and Judy Buckingham say they'll always lead a grief support group for as long as there is a need.
A new grief support group is forming on March 21. The group will meet at First United Methodist Church, Nacogdoches for 10 weeks on Tuesday evenings for an hour and a half and study "Understanding Your Grief by Alan Wolfelt, PhD. The next group is in the fall.
The cost is $25, and that includes a copy of the study book. To reserve your place, call Judy or Jim Buckingham at (936) 569-6160, or e-mail Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.