Don't Go It Alone
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
No one should feel alone when they are grieving,
Do you ever feel all alone in your grief, even in a crowd of people? Even when surrounded by friends and family who are also dealing with grief? The grieving process can feel very isolating. One proven remedy is a well-organized grief support group.
What is a grief support group?
We all are familiar with the concept of support groups in recovery circles: the stereotypical “Hello, my name is ___ and I am a ____.” What you might not know is support groups can be very helpful after you experience the death of someone close to you. The number one benefit from a grief support group is realizing you are NOT ALONE.
You might be thinking: “A bunch of strangers sitting around in a circle, crying and being sad together? No thanks!”
In fact, sharing your experience with others who are facing similar challenges can lead to healing. The people who know you best are a bit too close to your situation and are likely grieving in their own way. The open, nonjudgmental atmosphere of a support group allows you to feel accepted in a confidential setting. Your fellow group members will not have preconceived ideas about you, your loved one who died, or how your grief “should” look. Soon enough, a notable sense of “we are in this together” is felt by support group members as connections are established. When expertly facilitated, support groups are welcoming communities of acceptance and safety.
In addition to emotional comfort, an experienced professional facilitator will ensure your support group is structured to contain appropriate information, education, coping skill exercises, resources, and research-based strategies. Positive learning opportunities bring relief and allow members to serve as role models for others who are grieving, both within the group and within the greater community. You will be able to lead by example, gaining insight and then sharing what works, and what doesn’t work, for your own grief process.
Not all support groups are created equal, so ask some questions before you decide to join one. Many “free” support groups are sponsored by a large agency or church, and are facilitated by a minimally (if at all) trained lay-leader or community volunteer. The most important question to ask: what are the credentials and training of the person leading the group? An effective support group includes thoughtful, evidence-based educational and therapeutic goals. Just as you would not want to receive medical treatment from an unlicensed physician, your support group leader should be a trained bereavement mental health professional.
Next, ask if the group model is open, closed, or hybrid. There are pros and cons to each of these types of groups. A closed group runs for a specified number of weeks and no new members are allowed to join after the first or second sessions. This creates a tight-knit group because members see the same faces each week and really get to know one another. However, with everyone’s busy schedules, this is not always practical. Be sure you are able to realistically commit to attending at the same time each week for a number of weeks.
Alternatively, an ongoing, open-structured group invites members to attend when their schedule allows on a purely drop-in basis; however, that means the same folks won’t be there for each session. An open group requires less commitment, but can lead to a limited sense of group connection.
A hybrid group is a mixture of these two structures: the group runs for set number of weeks and members are welcome to come to all sessions, or to only attend the sessions that fit their personal schedule. This allows for some flexibility, while also honoring the best features of both open and closed groups. No matter which group you decide to join, ask about fees, type of payment accepted, and any refund policy.
Attending a grief support group will give you deeper insight into our own personal grief process, as well as provide you with skills and resources to help you cope. Research shows that grief support groups reduce the severity of grief and grief-related stress. Get the support you need by reaching out today to get started.
*Do a web search for “grief support + your zip code”
*Contact your local hospice agency, church, or funeral home
*If you are looking for support in Johnston County or Wake County, North Carolina, send me a request via email and I will connect you with appropriate local grief resources: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Join my safely moderated Johnston County Grief Support Group on Facebook.
*Call me today to ask for more information about grief support services offered by Johnston Integrative Counseling: 919-912-5736
You don't have to be alone in your grief! The support you need is right here.