COAL TOWNSHIP - The cheerful loop of colorful ribbon marking the shirt of each person in the cafeteria at Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital (G-SACH) signified an otherwise undetectable stage of grieving.

By outwardly displaying a symbol of grief, people embrace one of the 10 tenets of the Mourner's Bill of Rights: You have the right to talk about your grief.

Linda Gula, RN, director of hospice services, addressed the Mourner's Bill of Rights before a group of five people gathered Tuesday for the first session of the newly reformed VNA Health Systems Bereavement Support Group.

The Mourner's Bill of Rights, developed by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, founder of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, forms the backbone of the eight-week series conducted by the bereavement group.

Learning skills needed to embrace the Mourner's Bill of Rights allows participants to move forward independently after the series. Because of the success of previous iterations of the support group at G-SACH, few members have found the need to continue at the beginning of the next series.

Gula said the activities participants engage in are designed to encourage sharing and give direction.

"The point is to come together, everyone deal with their issues and deal with their own lives," she said.

Through the series, survivors learn ways to cope with the unique challenges of losing a loved one, such as handling unsolicited advice on moving forward from friends and family.

"They learn it is OK to grieve however is natural to them," said Gula.

The VNA Health System Bereavement Support Group meets privately from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays in the cafeteria at G-SACH. The public is welcome.