MINIS COLUMN: Lowcountry grief counseling pioneer dies


‘When someone dies, it wounds your deepest self,” said Marion Speers Blackshear in a 1998 Post and Courier article. Blackshear spent years as a grief therapist in Charleston, helping Lowcountry families to heal their wounds.

One of the earliest certified grief therapists, Blackshear was voted South Carolina's 1997 Social Worker of the Year for her work in the field. She helped the grief-stricken understand what their deceased loved one had meant in their lives and to understand the stages of their grieving process.

Blackshear counseled while on the staff of McAlister Funeral Home, served as director of bereavement at Hospice of Charleston and was instrumental in establishing the Grief and Loss Center of South Carolina.

At McAlister, she held grief support groups, conducted extended counseling programs and used the funeral home environment to help students working on master's degrees in social work and grief counseling.

“Goodness gracious she was an institution here,” says Archie Willis, president of the funeral home, now McAlister-Smith. “Marion was just a beautiful person. It was a wonder to be around her. I can't say enough good about her.”

Grief counseling was in its fledgling stage when Black-shear walked into the funeral home looking for a place to use her skills around 1990, he says. They agreed that the funeral home would be a perfect place.

Blackshear, widow of David Blackshear, whose work as interim minister at Circular Congregational Church brought them to Charleston, was born Feb. 1, 1930. She died May 10 at her home in New Hampshire. She and her husband left Charleston in 1998.

“The ability to have a certified grief counselor on staff was huge,” Willis says. “She did not leave any stone unturned. She had a ministry. She was able to bring emotions out and let people feel them and talk about them. People needed to be reminded that time will heal all wounds.

“Marion would help you understand what that pain meant and discuss it during an eight-week very intense program called BRIDGE,” Willis says.

Not only did she help others to understand and deal with their own stages of grief, she guided them on what to say to others who had lost a loved one, he says.

“She was just a wonderful, caring, loving person,” says Willis.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.