Jeff Gilbertson

Jeff Gilbertson lost his teenage son in a car accident in 1998.

Jeff Gilbertson felt like he was living in the Twilight Zone after his teenage son was killed in a car accident.

“When it’s a sudden death, your world just changes immediately overnight, and then you have to adjust to that new reality,” said Gilbertson, 57. “The first year is just horrific. Life just totally changes. Every holiday, birthday, anniversary and special occasion is a major deal. You almost dread it coming, but you’re almost happy it comes. You have these mixed feelings. It’s like you’re in the Twilight Zone.”

Gilbertson and his wife, Jana, lost their only son, Brett Allen, in a car accident Aug. 28, 1998. The 16-year-old was on his way to the Kentucky State Fair with some friends, and he was the only one killed in the crash.

At his gravesite, there’s a bench carved with a poem about a baseball field that says, “Although the game here has ended, for Brett it’s just begun.”

“One of the things is you get all these special moments before then and you think, ‘Well, I should have taken more pictures,’ but at the time, you think this isn’t really the pinnacle. There will be a lot more,” he added.

Brett Allen was loved by his peers, sang in the youth choir and played varsity baseball as an eighth-grader, throwing fastballs in the upper 90s by his junior year.

“It’s amazing how God gets you through those things. It’s supernatural, you can’t really explain it. If somebody told me this is what’s going to happen, I would just fall apart,” said Gilbertson, who works in Southeast Christian Church’s Care Ministry as the Support and Recovery associate.

Twice a year, Southeast holds the Grief Recovery Workshop, a nine-week, video-based class that incorporates group discussions, recovery hints and light homework to help people find ways to cope with grief.

The next workshop will be Tuesdays, Sept. 8 through Nov. 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in ATCR 200 at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.

“Grief is very unique and personal when you lose someone that you care about, but the things that people go through—the stages, phases, challenges, sadness, depression, anger—can all be pretty similar,” Gilbertson said. “So, grief is very unique and personal, but the emotional and physical response is similar. That’s why grief share can be so helpful because you can express yourself.”

The workshop is free and open to the public.

For more information or to register for the workshop, call Debbie White at (502) 262-1796 or email

Grief Memorial Service

The Grief Memorial Service will be held Sunday, Sept. 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Southeast’s Chapel in the Woods.

This annual event will include a guest speaker and a time of remembrance by lighting a candle to honor each person who has passed away.

“The highlight of the night is those who want to participate should bring a picture of a loved one,” Gilbertson said. “We light a candle and celebrate each person. It’s important to celebrate people we know who have gone on, but it also helps to bring closure because it’s a public recognition with the church. Not that we forget, but we remember in a new way and share it with people who may not have known him or her.”