Grief Support Groups: Positives and Pitfalls
Coping with Grief : Eleanor Haley/
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The suggestion to “check out a grief support group” seems to be indiscriminately offered to people after the death of a loved one. People generally consider support groups to be a reliable and valid recommendation and many would claim they’ve been helpful to them in dealing with their grief. Grief support groups provide many potential benefits in addition to the reality that they’re available in many communities, usually have no associated cost, and require little commitment from attendees.
Litsa and I recommend support groups, although we’re hesitant to do so broadly because we know they’re not for everyone. There are many people who attend a support group and quickly realize it’s a bad fit and others who never even consider attending in the first place. Also, it’s hard to know what types of support groups a person will have access to in their community. The following are just a few ways that support groups vary…
- Attitude and culture
- Led by a peer vs. mental health professional.
- Attendance is good vs. spotty
- Members are consistent vs. changing
- Focused on specific loss vs. general
- Focused on advocacy and action vs. grief experience
Before extolling the benefits of grief support groups, I feel compelled to talk about why someone might have a negative experience. Why do I start here? Because there’s already an awareness around the positives; enough that when someone has a negative experience they might feel discouraged and wonder, “Why didn’t a support group work for me? Everyone said it would be so helpful?”
But as many people as I’ve met who say they’ve had a wonderful support group experience, I’ve met just as many who’ve attended a group and felt disheartened and alienated. I want people to know this is normal and if they want to find a support group that works for them, to keep trying. Here is a non-exhaustive list of reasons why this sometimes happens. Note: If you make it to the end of the post you’ll see that these negatives lie on a continuum. On the other side of the continuum, many of these negatives are actually positives.
It can be helpful to be in the presence of someone else’s emotions, but sometimes it can be too much. When you’re feeling vulnerable yourself, you might not be in a good place to experience another person’s anger, sadness, regret, guilt, etc. Keep an eye on how you’re feeling in response to others; maybe you’ll find it’s too soon for you or maybe you’ll realize you’re just having an off day,
It is common for people to attend support groups looking for guidance, hope, and reassurance. Those early on in their grief especially may be looking for evidence that things get easier. Attending a group with this expectation may lead to feelings of hopelessness when others in the group, especially those further along in their grief, are still expressing pain, frustration, and negativity.
What people need to keep in mind is bad days can still happen years later. Also, people who are generally doing well in other areas of their life may use the support group as the one place where they can still talk about their pain and their loss.
It’s important to remember that support groups are not the same as therapy. Although group leaders are sometimes mental health professionals, often they are not. If you’re looking for a more formal therapeutic approach, you may want to consider talking to a mental health professional.
Incorrect Information/Bad Advice:
If it happens at the grocery store, why wouldn’t it happen in a group where everyone is grieving? Although you’ll see there is a benefit in the wisdom of others, there can also be a lot of bad information about what is normal, what to expect, and how to cope.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a good solution to this problem, in that they emphasize their collective experience, strength, and hope. Take advice with a grain of salt, if it seems to fit for you – great! If not, try and focus on learning from the experiences of others and finding hope and strength in their support.
I think most people attend support groups with the expectation that it will be a safe, judgment-free zone. In reality, even amongst people with similar types of losses, there can be a lot of negativity, insensitivity, judgment, and comparing.
Negative comments and judgments can be especially damaging when there isn’t a strong leader to make sure the comments are addressed. Often if you look a little further you’ll see that it’s a person’s grief talking, but when not addressed the comments may stay with the verbally assaulted. If this does happen, it may be left up to you to either address the comments or shrug them off.
This sounds really harsh, but sometimes all it takes is one person to derail an entire group. The monopolizer, the know-it-all, the interrupter, the inconsiderate, and the excessively negative person can easily reduce a groups chances of ever being seen as a safe, open, non-judgmental, supportive and constructive environment. Unfortunately, all I have to say about this is that it happens and it can take extreme tact to work with certain personality types.
Lastly, it does happen from time to time that a support group takes on a certain identity or chooses to identify with certain beliefs. New members may feel subtle pressure to identify with ways of thinking such as, “ours is the worst kind of loss”, “life will never be normal”, or “no one else understands.” Although there is a benefit in having a group to identify with, be careful that you are not adopting outlooks that keep you stuck or cause you to close yourself off from people outside the group.
Alright, now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about the positives related to grief support groups. As with my discussion of potential pitfalls, it’s impossible for me to present an exhaustive list of all the reasons why support groups can help. As we’ve noted, support groups are all so unique and different and so are the people in them. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll borrow insight in Irvin Yalom’s The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy.
Yalom’s text focuses on therapeutic groups, which are different from support groups (group therapy is more structured and led by a therapist). But Yalom notes that even when groups look different, if they share similar goals, then they rely on the same “therapeutic factors” to effect change. Again, he was speaking within the context of group therapy, but I think we could argue that therapeutic groups and support groups share similar goals and the ideal support group would share a few (but not all) of the same “therapeutic factors”.
Instillation of Hope:
In a support group, people in the acute phase of grief have contact with those who are much further along in their healing. In fact, groups are often led by people who have been through a loss themselves. Group members who are doing well and finding new ways to heal can provide hope to those who are new to grief and show that it’s possible to feel joy again (among other things). Also, not only might hope be instilled in general, but in some instances, more senior group members might prove the group’s efficacy and provide reassurance to others that the support group itself is a positive and helpful tool.
One of the best things about attending a grief support group is the reminder that you are not alone. Grief can feel very lonely and isolating, especially when no one else around you seems to be grieving. Although no two people experience grief in the exact same way, by attending a support group you may find that other people have experiences, feelings, and struggles that are similar to your own. When you feel totally alone and misunderstood by the world, the support group community can provide you with a haven of understanding.
Those who have been through experiences similar to your own may have great insight, direct advice, helpful suggestions, and understanding. Everyone has a different outlook and take on grief and, although you might not want to take all suggestions offered, they each help you to fine tune and better understand your outlook and approach.
There is healing in helping and giving. Support groups not only provide members with the opportunity to receive advice and support but to give it as well. You will learn a lot about yourself, life and other people in your grief; support groups provide you an opportunity to use your wisdom to help others. Often people don’t realize how much they have learned or how well they’re truly doing until they find themselves guiding and supporting someone else in their grief struggles.
Humans have an inherent desire to belong. It feels good to be a part of a group and to feel accepted and validated. When you consider the idea that belonging can impact your sense of happiness and well being and then consider the reality that experiencing the death of a loved one can make you feel different, alone and isolated, you realize just how valuable the experience of belonging to a group can be. Grief is not a club anyone wants to belong to; once you’re in it though, there is a great benefit in surrounding yourself with other members.
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80 Comments on "Grief Support Groups: Positives and Pitfalls"Click here to leave a Comment
Sarah Lea March 28, 2023 at 3:50 am
I haven’t read all the comments yet (but I will). I attend GriefShare and Compassionate Friends. First, I agree with another commenter that the Stepford-like couple in the GriefShare are a bit much (they lost their daughter, and my heart goes out to them; I’m sure they’re very nice people, but they don’t seem “real,” unlike the interviewees). Even though I am a Christian (but not the kind who goes to church every Sunday, reads the Bible all the time, or just listens to church music, although there is nothing wrong with that; I just don’t usually relate to those who do), the religious aspect of GriefShare is a bit much.
Thus, this aspect can be off-putting, especially for those who are Christian but lost loved ones who were not. (This was not the case for me, as my nine-year-old daughter with autism passed away.) In fact, I think this group might be very damaging for those who believe their deceased loved ones were (or even may have been) “unsaved” because if you believe your loved one is burning in hell or has been cast into the lake of fire to be destroyed (thus, their soul ceases to exist), I don’t think I could, especially as a parent, deal with that, so I recommend the Compassionate Friends, an interfaith group for those who have lost children.
For me, GriefShare is okay (it really depends on the people; you can have a great message but not-so-great messengers), and I recommend at least trying it out three times.
My GriefShare group is friendly and supportive, but if you have a spiritual experience or ADC (after-death communication) with your deceased loved one (or desire an ADC), it might not be the best place to share that (I have found that the more religious someone is, the likelier they are to discount such things, even if they do happen; we have had several). When I said how much I needed just one last communication from my daughter, one of the moderators opened up his Bible and started reciting something that had nothing to do with what I was talking about (although it sounded like a rebuke); the other moderator looked at me like I had lost my mind. However, another lady knew just what I needed: She reminded me of something that had happened at my daughter’s Celebration of Life, which was my daughter’s way of saying, “Mama, I’m okay.” It was something I knew, without a doubt, came from my child, but I guess I just needed that reminder. It was an experience that everyone in the entire chapel witnessed.
Sometimes, it just comes down to someone saying the right thing. I didn’t need a sermon or scripture but validation and understanding, and that is what this lady gave me.
The book “Hello from Heaven!” (among others) really helped me. Rather than go to church, I spend time in nature (and take my other daughter to a Bible club in the park near our house). I pray to Jesus like a friend. I seek ways to help others (and have found them). I write a lot about my daughter. I listen to Joel Osteen and watch YouTube videos about people who have had NDEs (which are anecdotal, not scriptural, but the ones most closely aligned with my beliefs have touched me the most). I work on creative projects. I listen to music (I love John Denver, and so does my daughter in Heaven). I do jigsaw puzzles and am working on a knotted rag rug created from my daughter’s old dresses that weren’t nice enough to be worn by my other daughter. I spend time with friends and family, and my husband and I have many great spiritual chats. He does a devotion every morning and shares it with me in the afternoon. One day, I’ll even get back into exercising.
So instead of drowning in my grief, I can manage it, although it will always be there. I will eventually be able to do more than manage it, but for now, I can manage it well enough to enjoy the rest of my life here as best I can, especially for the sake of my other daughter.
All those things have brought forth good fruit.
Everyone’s loss is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. I’ve always been more spiritual than religious (but no less Christian), and that doesn’t change just because I’ve lost my child.
I was gifted four counseling sessions at the church that did my daughter’s service (for free, basically in exchange for proselytizing to the guests, which I realized afterward). Although I appreciated the sessions, they did not help. I just felt like my counselor, although a very sweet lady, just didn’t “get it.” I felt like I was asked to imagine things rather than hold onto real things. She also insisted that I must be angry with God (I was not, never have been, and probably never will be), but that’s because I know we have free will in a fallen world and that He does not control everything (even though He is in control). Heaven is the one assurance I have, and I hold on to that. I will spend the rest of my life loving as much as I can and learning as much as I can so that I am just that much better when I am reunited with my first daughter.
As for the grief groups, take what works for you and leave the rest. I don’t learn a whole lot from GriefShare, but just being around others, especially those who have experienced a similar loss, helps tremendously. I met a wonderful couple there and have become good friends with the wife (who also lost a child; we both attend Compassionate Friends). We are part of each other’s support system. I have learned that giving comfort can comfort you.
I write this because I hope it helps someone somewhere.
Jill White December 18, 2022 at 4:29 pm
I joined an online widows group ‘widows rebranded that had only 3 Jews. There are also zoom meetings. In one meeting with breakout groups, the 3 Jews ended up in a room with a woman from Texas. The leader apologized to her twice. I asked the leader to explain ( by message- not on- line,) she could not. She immediately threw me out without telling me. I have documentation of her anti- semetism. She is also using the group to create seminars etc. but may have dropped out in high school and has no real training.
It was sad, but the other Jews (one that I spoke with 2x/day immediately said she was going to stay. The other woman and she would not even write a message!
I am trying to warn others that this is a SCAM especially for recent widows like me. I feel so badly, not about the group, but that they didn’t do anything. One woman is from a family of Holocaust survivors, I guess she was told to not make waves. She is 76!
I have the messages with the leader as proof. I am hurt, but it scared me. I am in a new city and want to make friends/ I guess some people just don’t rock the boat- but isn’t that made the Holocaust possible- not objecting! They are poaching members from other sites too. I am furious and very sad although I live in New York where no one else in the groups live. I need to take action, but what?
Litsa December 22, 2022 at 12:36 pm
Oh Jill, I am so incredibly sorry that somewhere you were seeking support and instead had such a distressing experience. If she is charging for services she is a business, so you would be able to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Unfortunately one of the limitation/risks of groups that are run by people who are not licensed mental health professionals is that there is no ethical standards or credentialing body with which to file a complaint. There are many online groups that are affiliated with hospices and grief centers, so the are well monitored and open to people from all over. One option is the Heartlight Center. Though it might not help you connect with people locally, it could be a place to start. Also, hospices provide services that are open to the community even if your partner wasn’t in hospice, so checking with your local hospice is another option.
JustMe September 10, 2022 at 6:13 pm
I need a group desperately. But I do not want one that is all about religion. Where do you find such a group?
Litsa September 12, 2022 at 2:23 pm
Hospice grief groups are open to everyone, if your loved one didn’t die in hospice, and they are not religious. Also many local hospitals run grief support groups. Those would likely be the best places to start. You can also check with the funeral home that you used – some have groups or have listings of groups in your area.
Linlay Beachy May 21, 2022 at 6:38 pm
Attended a GriefShare group and could not hang in. Facilitators fell asleep during weekly video, could not be heard when they led discussions, and were aimless when we could hear them. They did not respond to emails or reach out if we did not attend a session. The video testimonials were helpful, as were the Biblical references, but the husband wife lead speakers were very Stepford and made me increasingly uncomfortable by their robotic eye contact and delivery. Wish I could be more positive.
Roger April 4, 2022 at 11:11 am
My mother contracted covid in late January 2022. She got past the covid, however her recovery has been tough. She is basically immobile, has lost her appetite, is getting over a UTI infection, has diabetes. Just so scared that she has lost her will to leave and it pains me and saddens me to no end just being so scared a out her recovery. She is 84 years old
SH February 10, 2022 at 6:57 pm
As a empath, I feel emotions deeply and also take on the emotions of others. My husband passed away recently and it is hard to deal with. Through my faith I have found hope, but I have also found that being around certain people my energy is depleted and at times I feel hopeless. I have been feeling lonely due to losing my spouse. We were high school sweethearts and only married a year. I am also very young, 22 years old.
Anyways, I miss the connection of people and find often people cant understand what I’m going through. People also avoid widows like we got the plague. I wrestle with the idea of joining a group but truthfully o don’t want a group where I’m sharing stories of my spouse or hearing the ones of others. Hearing hopelessness. A lot of that has to do with the way my spouse passes. But I’m trying to keep my mind on my faith and encouragement that the future, although scary and much different, can still have some good things in it.
This article made me realize a support group isn’t for me right now. I get all my sad feelings out through grief counseling and alone time. And by talking to select friends. But I just need some hope right now. To relate, I like to read articles and blog posts. I would also recommend finding a YouTuber or maybe someone on social media that has gone through grief and talks about how they got through it. That’s what’s helpful to me. Wishing for easier days for everyone.
Purva June 7, 2021 at 11:50 pm
I recently lost my husband and am still grieving his loss. It’s a terrible time for me. Absolutely loved reading your write up. Thank you for sharing this. If you would like to know more about I am getting through this, please visit
Dean Phillips May 20, 2021 at 1:13 pm
With the recent and sudden passing of my mother, I have been going through a really rough patch these past month. I started looking into grief support right where I am here in Bensalem. I looked it up online and that’s how I found your very informative article. I really appreciate you highlighting how group members who are doing well and finding new ways to heal can provide hope to those who are new to grief and show that it’s possible to feel joy again. Personally, this is something I hope to achieve by seeking out grief support. Thank you so much for this! https://www.fluehrfh.com/?action=general.griefwords_list&&fh_id=14178
Catharine Mackanyn April 13, 2021 at 10:55 am
I just came across this “Grief Support Group: Positives” I have a few comments. I am in need of human being interaction. I am in a deep stage of sadness, anger, confusion. I have outburst of crying for my Mom, that I had loss in 2019.
I am also dealing with a secondary loss and I think I am mixing up my emotions with my grief.
What I am finding on my search of online support groups is that there is not many that actual help you. When I say that it’s because no one responds to you. Or there is a fee for the help.
The problem that I have with the fee part is, are we really getting help from someone that knows what they are talking about for one an two is it someone that does what to listen to you and help you or is it someone that doesn’t care. Not sure? I really like to believe that I am talking with someone that might care a little, and that is good enough for me.
I hope that through my comment I just might receive someone to talk to about my need, for understand what I am going through.
Thank-You for letting make my comment.
Susan January 4, 2021 at 7:09 pm
My husband passed away 11/21/2020. I just can’t stop crying. We’ve been together for 36 yrs…
since I’m 19 yrs old. I feel so lost and heartbroken. I definitely need help coping with this. I cannot live this way.
IsabelleS January 5, 2021 at 12:46 pm
Susan, I’m truly so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you. The feelings of being lost and heartbroken are so valid and okay… Let yourself feel whatever you need to feel. If you need some additional help coping, I highly recommend seeking out the support of a therapist trained in grief and bereavement, which you can find here: https://grief.com/grief-counselor-directory/. You can read more about the process of finding a therapist here: https://whatsyourgrief.com/finding-a-grief-counselor/ All the best to you.
Lynn March 2, 2022 at 7:20 pm
Hi Susan, your post resonated with me I am feeling the same emotions my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer a year ago and things have just gotten worse I’ve also been with him for 35 years I feel lost despair great sadness. I don’t know where to turn I happen to stumble upon this website. If you have found any body that it has helped you can you please let me know. Thanks
Helena December 5, 2020 at 10:33 pm
I’ve lost my best friend 7 months ago. We were soulmates and talked every day for the last 12 years. I have no partner and no children and she was the most close person to me. Tried out five grief support groups and almost always made the same experience: most people there are incredibly selfish. It’s probably part of deep grief but I always ended up listening and supporting others but they never asked me how I feel. Furthermore, there seems to be a pecking order as in “I lost my partner, that’s worse, we’ve been together for only two years, you at least had 40 years”. I guess grieving is not something that creates a community that cares for another. Maybe it works if such a group is lead by a professional but a bunch of people whose grief is fresh and raw doesn’t seem to be able to help each other.
IsabelleS December 7, 2020 at 10:35 am
Helena, I’m sorry for your loss and that you had such a negative experience with a grief support group! You’re so right, there is no use for comparisons in grief. We actually wrote a whole article about this, which you can check out here: https://whatsyourgrief.com/comparing-grief/ Perhaps instead of a support group, you could seek out a counselor/therapist trained in grief… You can find one here: https://grief.com/grief-counselor-directory I hope you find the support you need.
Melanie Brandt June 5, 2020 at 3:33 pm
After reading a lot of the heartfelt comments about grief, grieving, loss, sadness, isolation, fear, and every other emotional experience….I am so touched by how many people shared about their pain and losing a loved one. The article was great and very helpful. But the comments were so amazing! I see that there’s a need for sharing online, perhaps. In these days of self-quarantine shelter-in-place living, online groups have become a new norm. I wonder if anyone knows of any links to online groups and or grief social groups we can take a look at? Thanks to all for sharing a piece of themselves here n this forum!
Gabby March 4, 2020 at 2:16 pm
I experienced disappointment in the grief support group I attended. I lost both parents (timely, except Mom was cheated out of a few years due to bad medical care) after a few years of them needing a lot of care giving. I was hoping for conversations about feeling guilty, fatigued, overwhelmed, etc after losing them. While the group members are sweet, it appeared that some are there for a weekly chin-wag and snacks. One dominates the meeting with venting about her adult children. While I’d never put a time limit on someone’s grief, I felt like she didn’t allow others to speak. That being said, those who are still grieving deeply and their loss has been 7 years ago should maybe let someone else speak. The woman who dominated the conversation was absent one meeting, and I thought, “Oh good. Someone else gets to speak.” However, I realized the group leader also dominated the conversation. She and the other woman alternated the other meetings and then the leader did in the one the other wasn’t in. A woman who had just lost her husband desperately needed to talk. I did too, but I sensed she needed it more so kept quiet. She was asked how she was; answered with one sentence and then the leader went on and on about her own experiences with loss. I think it would be better to have a professional lead these groups, rather than someone who has experienced loss and grief themselves. Sure, professional also experience loss and grief, but they are trained to control groups and allow those who need to talk to do so. Sharing examples of your own losses and telling us to have a strong faith (good, but not helpful advice) just didn’t bring me comfort. This might be effective for some, but I think I am in need to one-on-one actual therapy.
Sue December 5, 2019 at 10:22 am
There needs to be more support groups. It’s hard finding one
Sarah December 2, 2019 at 9:40 am
I don’t know if this is a good place to ask this question, but here goes. My husband passed 15 years ago from cancer. I am pretty well adjusted, I think. I was asked to co-facilitate a grief support group at church, and have done so for five years-6-week sessions, one in the fall and one in the spring. Group participation has had its ups and downs but overall the groups have received good comments. I found myself getting burned out after five years and have taken a break. I don’t know if I want to participate in the spring or not. There isn’t really anyone to process with (no supervision) but I know the group has helped people. Apparently No one else is able or qualified to do the groups in the parish.
Rita December 10, 2019 at 9:32 am
Hi Sarah! I’m a pastor and have worked with volunteers through burnout for many years. I do think you need to care for yourself now. Five years is a long time to be involved leading something, especially in grief support! Here’s the thing: since you are believer in God, you know He can provide for the needs of the parish. It is not on your shoulders, it is on His. Gracefully step down if you are feeling it is time, and pray that if the group is to continue that God (as the perfect provider He is!) will find someone else, or another way for individuals to receive the care they need.
John John Griffin November 17, 2019 at 1:26 pm
On October 9 2019. My two aunts who used to babysit me when I was little and who attended my daughter’s graduation just last year from Vista College were brutally murdered by someone that has been labeled as my cousin. I say labeled as because not everyone deserves that title. Cousins don’t murder your aunts. That’s for strangers to do. Now we sit in pain everyday as we wait on the trial and for the police to collect the remaining pieces of evidence to get the trial process underway. It was in Kilgore Texas. My aunts were both in their 60s and didn’t work. My lowlife of a cousin didn’t want to work so he wanted to lay up on his ass and get a crazy check for the rest of his life. He was released from a mental institution and was on meds. He stopped taking his medication one week and became very volatile. Before that he was in jail for burgularizing property. They did not keep him in jail or the mental institution. He went to get a crazy check but was denied the assistance. That pushed him over the edge where he did something that he always wanted to do in his mind while in foster care. He held a grudge against my aunts and entire family for being bounced from foster home to foster home. On October 9 2019 at around 10 30 in the morning or a little earlier he STABBED my two aunts to death multiple times. Their voices while they were being stabbed and helpless as he locked the doors where they couldn’t escape plays over in my mind everyday. I am for her changed by this. I don’t sleep the way I used to and now the holidays are coming up and I don’t have my aunts to see at church or to call on the telephone to ask what they will be eating. It’s so damn depressing and I can’t find help in Longview Texas to talk about it. I work and can’t break down over it and it’s so irritating. I have no one to talk to.
Jennifer December 6, 2019 at 11:31 am
John, I am so sorry to hear about this tragedy. I truly hope you can find the support you need. I was online today looking for some grief information and stumbled upon your note. I wanted to share any support I can. There is a website that might be able to point you in the direction of finding some local support. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/groups/grief/tx/longview best of luck and peace to you!
Suzy Emre July 30, 2019 at 3:58 pm
I am looking at starting a support group at my church. I have a nonprofit for pregnancy and infant loss awareness and had a support group dedicated to that kind of loss that dwindled greatly over a couple of years.
The group I am starting is one for all kinds of loss, not just children, but a place for support while grieving the loss of a loved one. I am not a professional, but have one that will be available as needed. I have lost two pregnancies, personally, lost a grandbaby (stillbirth) and my dad. I believe there is joy…even though it can take a while to achieve. I want people to know that it is there.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Kasia Liszka July 26, 2019 at 8:40 pm
From a user experience point of view, why would you end the article by telling someone to get along with their day?
Really? Bereaved people in the midst of grief seek help from your site and that is the least compassionate statement you could end with.
Rosemary July 5, 2019 at 8:11 am
Diane, my husband also committed suicide and I am three years out and still struggling mightily. I’m really good at pretending but as soon as I am alone, I relax and take a breath and start sobbing.
As to GriefShare, I found it to be cultish, cliquish and very unhelpful. I found several people had gone through it 1-2 times before and that made us newbies feel like outsiders.
I don’t know how GriefShare gets such good reviews. The program made me feel even more isolated and frightened and alone.
Ann Jones May 15, 2019 at 10:50 am
I lost my mother way back in 1977. At 25 years of age, I had to quit my job and college to be her caregiver until she died. They didn’t have Hospice or chemo or radiation therapy for cancer back then. It was very lonely and stressful. I had not family to help me.
Years later, in 1999 after being my first husband’s caregiver for eight years, he passed away after being in Hospice House for 13 months. My husband was not supposed to have lived that long, then he kept lingering in Hospice House for much longer than most people do. He had had a very aggressive form of brain cancer that only “older people” usually get. He got his cancer at age 36. Because of this the doctors and the medical system didn’t know what to do with him. He wasn’t supposed to be alive, he wasn’t supposed to get this form of cancer so young.
I had to quit my job to take care of him and our seven year old son. This meant no income was coming into the house. During this time I was diagnosed with breast cancer two months after my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. We ended up going to radiation therapy together after our surgeries. Our poor son who had intermediate asthmatic before all of this happened had more frequent attacks because of the stress in the family. The poor little guy was surrounded by cancer and scared and confused. My family told me later that they “purposefully stayed away” and didn’t help more was because I “needed too much help”? So they gave NO help instead. I’m still trying to figure out how they came up with that reasoning!
Along with fighting the cancer, I also had to deal with the medical system. There were some very wonderful doctors and nurses. But there were some very horrible doctors and nurses also! I have heard this same comment from others going through similar situations. If the cancer wasn’t enough stress, there was the added stress of dealing with some very insensitive people in the medical (and social work) field.
It has been over 20 years, and I am definitely past the initial stages of intense grief, but there are times where something will come up in my life that brings a flood of old fears and memories back. Whenever my current husband has medical issues, I get in a bit of a panic. I still have some grief issues after all these years, and PTSD along with it.
I was encouraged recently to attend a new Christian based support group that runs for 13 weeks. I was told that my experiences and input could help others, and also the videos may give me some new updated information on the grief process and some new insight and suggestions. There is always something new to learn.
After attending the first orientation meeting, I was later contacted by the pastor and told that I would not be welcome to continue in the group. It was difficult to get him to clearly explain why, but it came down to his feeling that because the death of my mother and first husband was so long ago, I didn’t have any grief issues left to deal with. They only wanted people who were “actively/currently” going through grief!
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from this pastor, but it didn’t totally surprise me. While attending the first group meeting, the non-professional “facilitators” of the group and said some things that really caused some “red flags” to go up for me. Because of this I contacted the organization that produced the program videos and workbooks this group was using. I spoke to one of their experienced grief counselors and asked some calm questions. She told me that some of the things I heard and saw in this group were definitely NOT supposed to happen or be said! These things were not part of their policy.
My point in this post is…..be VERY CAREFUL what support group you join! Groups led by “lay facilitators” that have no formal training can cause serious problems for those who are grieving. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend (two Christian psychologists) confirm this in their book “Safe People”. They say…
“Groups are powerful and need leadership by people who know what they are doing. They need to know the issues that arise and how to deal with them. That is why groups have trained leaders, or leaders who have experience in the growth process. We generally discourage informal groups of hurting people who get together with no trained or experienced leader. These groups can re-create all the problems that someone is there to get help with. Unless you are far along in the process, try and find groups that are structured, have an expressed purpose, and have an experienced leadership.”
This isn’t the only grief support group I have had problems with. One group tried to combine people who were dealing with the loss of a “human” loved one with those dealing with the loss of an “animal” loved one. It did NOT work out well! There was a lot of anger from the side grieving a lost human towards those who were sharing their pain of losing a pet. Both sides had real grief, but trying to combine the two was not a good idea.
Again, BE AWARE of the type of grief support group you are joining. They are not created equal.
Chaplain Marianne Sailus April 9, 2019 at 12:49 pm
I am a grief counselor with a hospice, for whom I’ve been working for the past 15 months or so. I am a board-certified chaplain, and have been doing chaplaincy for 23 years. Also, I ran an epilepsy support group for about 20 of those 23 years. All that being said, I feel that support groups for grieving and support groups for chronic illness have many differences, but one essential one.
The folks who attend the epilepsy group have sometimes been there from the inception of the group in 1986. That is because there are changes in epilepsy care, new treatments, etc. The group also has two fundraisers a year (a walk and a bowl-a-thon), and the younger members of our group have a “sub-group” led by a young married couple (he has epilepsy, she does not), who take the youth on outings periodically.
With grief support groups, however, I personally feel that grieving should not be something that goes on for years. Our hospice runs support groups that meet weekly for 10-12 weeks, focusing on different ways to deal with grief (art, visual memories, yoga, writing, etc.). If a person finishes one group and wants to join another for a different “tool,” they are welcome to do this — and some have done so. But I believe that grief support groups should give the “tools,” not be an ongoing “therapy session” (as the author so clearly writes). If anyone has any thoughts on this, please respond.
Jess April 17, 2019 at 7:11 am
I understand your perspective and respect the work that you do! However, grief is something that stays with you; that you need to learn to embrace and in some cases use to better yourself or others. It’s not a matter of mourning for years; it’s letting yourself carry the loss with you and move forward with life. That can be hard to do for many people, even years after a tragedy occurs. A good example of this is a parent losing a child – that is a pain no one can imagine living with, yet many people are in this situation and feel very isolated and hopeless. Joinh a community of people who understand that pain can save lives.
Eleanor Haley April 18, 2019 at 4:52 pm
We certainly have thoughts about this, and have written about it here: https://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-recovery-is-not-a-thing/. Research has shown time and again that grief ebbs and flows for people. We don’t get a little better everyday until it is gone, like a cold. We take 8 steps forward, 4 back, etc. New life stages and new losses can bring up old losses. Grief that has felt manageable for a stretch of months can surge and suddenly feel unmanageable due to other stressors. A connection with a loved one continues, which is a deep source of comfort but also can take a long time to navigate and learn to carry. Certainly we expect to see symptoms of what is less grief and more acute stress/acute grief subside after several months, but in terms of learning to navigate secondary losses, stabilize even the most general adjustment, and begin to forge a continued bond, that often requires more time to simply live those experience than could possibly come in those early months. So, though 6-12 week groups are often tremendously helpful, they also are sometime serving only to address the tools and challenges of early loss. We hear time and again from widows and grieving parents (especially, we hear this from others as well) about the deep and overwhelming challenges of ‘year two’, when the groups and support from friends and family are long gone. We deeply agree that psychoeducational groups, as you describe, are a huge asset in dealing with grief. But what many grievers identify seeking in groups is a place to process with others who have had shared experiences, which is what can be both a huge strength and huge challenge for groups that are peer support (very different than professionally facilitated). Striking that balance is crucial to effective grief groups, and it what makes them more valuable than just reading a book or blog post about tips and tools.
Rev. E. Hansen November 23, 2019 at 2:11 pm
Since my Dad died last year and my wife has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, your concept would not fit for me. Never preface anything with a one-size-fits-all set of rules. This will be going on for a long time. The degree of the attachment to the ones you have lost or are losing determines the severity of your grief, not the passage of a certain time frame. But I do appreciate what you are doing in helping people so carry on!
Pat March 30, 2019 at 5:36 pm
I am so sorry for the losses you have all experience. I lost my father 1/20/19, and I feel like I will never be okay again. Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences. May God bless all of us with hope, willingness, and fortitude.
Cait January 23, 2019 at 9:47 pm
I lost my mom yesterday to a glioblastoma brain tumour. She was diagnosed in September 2018 and now gone at only 55 yrs old. She was not only my mother, but my best friend, and for many years to be truthful she was also my care taker as I’ve suffered with mental illness my whole life. I am not sure how I am going to get past this. I feel as though a huge part of me has died with her.
Amy December 17, 2018 at 10:39 pm
Not sure where to start but my mom and I were a lot alike. I went and visited her and continued to go visit her at least once a month sometimes 2 times a month. We lived 250 miles away and went to see her every chance we got. Our relationship was the best that it had ever been. I talked to her almost everyday on the phone. She was my best friend. After her long 10 hour surgery to remove cancer they thought was ovarian cancer. The surgeon accidentally nicked her intestines and patched it himself. He wasn’t an intestinal surgeon! She went on more chemo for about a year and was told she was cancer free even rang the bell. She started getting better and eating and putting on weight and then started having issues with her stomach, intestinal blockages. She was in the hospital at least once a month for at least 1 year. It got so bad she couldn’t eat because her stomach was so full and bloated. She was literally starving to death. The chemo damaged her kidneys so bad she had to have stints put in them. They sent her to a specialist in St Louis because the blockages just wasn’t getting any better. They ended up putting a tube in her stomach and a bag attached to her. They also put her on TPN’s which actually gave her some nourishment. This is Nov 2016. They then said she had a rare cancer on the outside of her intestines. Put her on chemo again. Chemo was so hard on her. But she seemed okay. Doing a little better every week. She ended up going to Chicago for a second opinion Aug 2018 and they were going to fix her. They did a scope on her intestines and said it wasn’t as bad as they thought it was. They were very hopeful. Put her on more chemo instead of going in and removing it. November she had lost alot of weight. She was small framed anyway barely 100 pounds healthy. She was down to 85 pounds. I have no idea what her lowest was but Christmas 2017 she was in the hospital. I drove all night (no one knew we were coming) I sat with her for a few hours. I got there about 11pm and stayed till about 4am and came back the next day to visit with her in the hospital again. At this point she was done with chemo. She said she didnt want it anymore that it was so hard on her. When she got out of the hospital bed she had lost so much weight she looked like a concentration camp prisoner. She was still a fighter though. She sounded good, knew what she wanted. I thought she would be okay. Maybe I just convinced myself that because that is what I wanted to believe. I visited with her again Jan 4 for the day. Got a call Jan 8th that I needed to come up there. Drove that night got there about 1am. I sat with her and talked with her for days. At this point she was so drugged up I could barely make out what she was saying. All family had visited with her on Jan 11 and she was in good spirits. That night she was in so much pain. The worst pain I have ever seen. Her nurses all said she wasn’t in any pain but I don’t see how she wasn’t. All I could do was hold her hand and tell her I loved her. All night long she moaned in pain. I kept helping her up to the bathroom but she couldn’t go. Her kidneys were shutting down. 4am I was praying God would come and take her pain away. 5am on Jan 12 I watched my mom take her last breath. That moment will forever be burned in my brain. The hardest thing I have ever been through. It was miraculous too. Pain was gone. Her face was beautiful. No blemishes what so ever anymore. She looked like an angel. As I am writing this I am balling my eyes out. I feel a lot of guilt. I feel guilty for the wasted years we were estranged. It is a daily struggle. I miss her so much I am thankful that we got to mend our relationship. That is my story. Thank you for reading this.
Lisa January 8, 2019 at 3:40 pm
Oh Amy, I respect and admire your account of such great loss. Your Mother sounds like a wonderful and gracious woman. You were a remarkable and loving daughter to her at her time of great need. I send love and blessings to you.
Debbie Anaple December 16, 2018 at 2:38 pm
Like some others who’ve posted above, I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who can’t totally relate to my type of loss. I attended a Hospice support group, but I felt insignificant. They do a wonderful job with their patients though. I lost both my parents in less than 11 months. There were only 15 days between my mom’s diagnosis and death, who went first. My dad was totally dependent on her. He never properly grieved. He suffered multiple falls, living alone until he passed away just this last June. I went to the bereavement group in August, which, like some have said, was too soon. I’m just now really feeling the impact of my losses. I also lost a brother to suicide in 1988. Sometimes, I’m so down, I just want to join them. One thing that gets me through is how much my family would suffer if I took my own life. I’ve had other major stressors, too. Another thing is, I’ve noticed how some of you have lost faith. This is understandable since religion in general confuses and alienates
people. I just want to say 1). Death is not God’s fault or will, 2). He cares for grieving ones, 3). He has the power and desire to reunite us with our loved ones, 4). Death will be done away with. Feel free to contact me or visit jw.org for more information.
Wilson Chiseyeng'i December 9, 2018 at 9:18 am
My Girlfriend Died 5 days ago. Am mostly Confused. Ill suddenly be okay. and the very next am back to the 1st day When she died. I cry a lot for short periods which i don’t know if its healthy. I am in so much pain. You see every time i was having a bad day i would be like it will be okay when i talk to Che. But what do you do when the bad day is looping Cause she is dead and that is the reason you having a bad day. I knew her for years but we only seriously dated for 7 months and honestly it was the most serious relationship i have ever had. she always said she wanted Roses, i made fun of it but always wanted to surprise her eventually. I had it planned out it was going to blow her away… but she died prior. That hurts so so so much. She was Loved by all and i have been really humbled by her death. She touched so many many Lives of all ages. I Love her so so so much. for anybody reading this and you might be going through something similar, maybe you want to die, nothing will cheer you up but you can find comfort in the pain knowing people from all over the world are going through exactly this right now. and its helping me to learn to respect peoples pain. people joke about depression all the time and no lie i would laugh too but this pain is no joke. Its Very Very hard. Am not okay so lets be not okay together. but we cant give up. cause we fail them when we do that. i don’t know when the healing will start but typing this kinda helped. I Respect Grief, I Respect grievers. Even though i don’t believe this right now I want to know this is part of Life.
Nina April 30, 2019 at 6:47 pm
I lost the love of my life, my boyfriend and best friend of 15 years on 4/17/19. He had brain aneurysm and died the next day. I knew something was wrong when 1 day went by and I couldn’t reach him. I found out 5 days later that he was gone. He was my heart, my life and my best friend. I don’t think I’ll ever get this. He was my rock. I am lost without him.
Tracey May 14, 2019 at 10:27 am
I lost my spouse of 27 years. it will be a month. he was 49 . I miss him every day. I cry whenever a song that reminds me of him comes on. our son is 21. and he is having such a hard time with his death, we dont know where to go for grief counseling. can someone help? because it is the hardest thing to deal with . we were a team. and i miss him so much, that i dont want to do anything without him.
Dianne May 18, 2019 at 12:06 pm
Do you belong to a church? Is there a local hospice group that offers counseling? My husband of 29 years passed from pancreatic cancer 19 months ago. Our two sons 24 and 28 were very close to him. The first few months were a daze. One son and I both sought counseling through our church. But mainly it was the 3 of us sticking together. A 21 year old is usually going through other maturity issues so maybe he has an uncle or reliable mentor to help besides you? Both of my kids were able to call on their faith to get through the rough parts. After a year, I told them both it was ok to move and get on with their lives. One for a job 300 miles away, and the other off to finish college 500 miles away. I miss them terribly but I don’t tell them. I keep busy visiting other family and taking care of house and yard which is a full time job. Find a good friend who is not afraid to talk about your grief. Some want to walk away from it. But find one confidante who will let you talk about your pain whenever you need it.
david acuff November 11, 2018 at 11:06 pm
I lost my sister on a saturday and 4 days later lost my best friend and classmate, whom I had known since 1958. She had parkinsons and only 3 years ago broke her hip. I was with her for 11 years and the last 3 she was bedridden. I stayed with her almost constantly and attended to her needs. Needless to say, I was crushed and still have tears every day, even though it has been 2 months. She meant the world to me and every day, I ask GOD how am I ever going to go on without her. They say be around people and stay busy, well even at Walmart where there are a lot of people, I start breaking down. I think of things I would do better if I could only have her again. I go into her room and talk as if she is still there being sorry I didn’t do more and have more patience. She was an angel on earth, and now she is with GOD and the angels in Heaven. I can’t wait to see and hold her again.
Angelica Griffith November 8, 2018 at 10:04 pm
I’m from Sacramento , California and my girlfriend just lost her youngest son we are trying to find a grief and loss group near her , she is going through many different emptions.
marty November 8, 2018 at 3:26 am
i lost my wife of 14 years to a accidental drug overdose she was the last in a not stop prade of death that started when i was 17 my best friend died while we were cliff climbing my next best friend died two years later in a motorcycle accident i taught him how to ride and the first one he took my place on the rope while i was taking off my jacket i stopped having close friends a couple years later i moved by my self across Canada then after years of doing nothing no real friends no life i met my wife it was the start of the next wave after meeting my wife i became out going again and started friendships i got really close to one guy pretty much my best friend he died soon after the next was the last person that not a best friend but some one who did not judge me just accepted me for me was killed in a motorcycling accident i also found out shortly after i moved a cross canada a good friend i had know sinse childhood who moved out here a couple of years before me died in a crash out here shortly after i meet my wife my mother died and before i left to move out here my father died all of that with no disrespect to any of them i handled with friends and the later ones with my wife now with my wife gone which is by far the worse one you see i new she was going to die i could see it on her some times is was awful for a year and a half i was running home at times in a panic to see if she was alright it was getting to the point i would leave in the morning and come back two or three times to make sure she was ok i was driving both of us crazy with it then on the morning of her death i left the house and stopped a block away and said the words aloud that i have to stop doing this and kept going only to come home that night to find her dead im in one on one therapy and i did one on one grief support but i can’t get into group cause of my wifes little dog he is anxiety ridden as am i i can’t leave him with anyone and i have no friends cause i pushed every one away from me years before the dog is all i have left of my wife hes 17 and a half years old we are glued to each other since she died and i’m looking at grim surroundings when he goes the loneliness is already killing me with out this little guy i don’t know what will happen
Paula May 10, 2019 at 2:56 am
Marty, I don’t know if you will read this, but I want you to know I am praying for you. I have been through many losses and can identify with how complicated it can be. I hope that you are feeling a little better, and can find the will to get involved with something good, with good people. Sometimes it helps me to think about what my loved ones who I am grieving would want me to do. I know that they’d want me to do healthy things for myself, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. That makes it easier to make myself do the good-for-me things, and I feel that by doing them, I honor those I lost. I’m so sorry you have been through so much. Praying for you.
scott brown November 2, 2018 at 1:31 pm
I lost my 26 year old son, Zachary, in Nov 2016 to an accidental overdose due to fentanyl. I have attended a TCF grief support group occasionaly since then and found it somewhat helpful. What would be more helpful would be a group specifically for fathers, which i have yet to find.
It seems there is huge stigma among fathers to be open about their struggle, and I have seen this. Any suggestions?
Robin December 26, 2018 at 10:21 pm
Just a thought, but have you thought of starting a support group for fathers?
Carole July 28, 2018 at 7:53 pm
Julie expresses very well how I feel. I lost my oldest son to suicide in 2017 and my husband of 58 years in January 2018. I feel like no one cares or understands. Some days I don’t think that I can go on. I have started attending a support group for those who have lost a spouse but I lost both. No one in the group or my church seems to understand.
Betty December 6, 2018 at 10:18 pm
I think people who are in your face religion turns people away! I get sick of hearing God this Jesus etc etc. There is absolutely a feeling they leave you with, like they are know it alls! I have a sister who really proved to me that she cannot be trusted! She uses religion like she is the Virgin Mary! My sister is two faced and spreads half truths about me, she is wicked and a gossip!
DLC July 6, 2018 at 1:40 am
We went to a local Grieving class and were turned off my two things. 1) most of the time is taken up watching grieving videos with a very short discussion time. It is a 6 week class that starts over immediately and repeats itself week after week, year after year, so you see the same videos over and over and over and the discussion time remains minutes a week. Sigh.. 2) Over half the group had been attending the same class every week for 2 or more years! That is 2, 3, and 5 YEARS, watching the same videos week after week. Seems to me like they are not making any progress in their lives if they are still attending and still so very raw emotionally, as many were. Almost seems like they are hiding in the class. There was a bit of a “click” going on there also, with so many people having attended the same class for all these years together, at first we felt like we were intruding upon their group. After a few weeks we realized they just hadn’t moved on with their lives.
Basundhara das June 27, 2018 at 4:17 am
I lost my Father in 2015, my world turned upside down. All the responsibility of the house came on my shoulders, I became strong and i could do it. I had the support of my boyfriend who has always been the strongest pillar of my life after that. But The pillar broke and God took him away too this 26th May 2018. I broke, i became weak . I have 100 questions that i ask God, especially what sin did i do that he gave me this punishment?? What is my Fault that i have to live a life with sooo much pain, sorrow. My bf was literally beaten to death with no fault of his own. I know i can never get over this pain. Im fighting and dying each day. I somehow want some relief but memories are all over. He was strength but today he is my weakness… Its unimaginable for me that he is no more. I would look up to him for all my problems and trust me he would show up, be there beside me. Why God had given me such a support when he would take him away? Why this unwanted Life? We had planned marriage by next year 2019, We were so happy with each other, by my world fell apart again. People say there must be some good behind every bad, but i dont see any goodness behind this. 5years of relationship and 6 years of Friendship. I ask God to kill me so that i can be with both of them. I hate my Life.
Dianne October 27, 2018 at 12:47 pm
I know how you feel exactly. My husband of 26 years committed suicide in our back yard and I found him less than a minute after he died. My life feels over, and sometimes I wish it was. I need someone I can feel close to again, but I don’t know where or if I can ever feel anything again except for grief and loneliness. Perhaps we can help each other to “understand why” and help heal each other. Please feel free to contact me.
Kate April 17, 2018 at 4:31 pm
All comments were very helpful. Became overwhelmed by hearing others losses. Also, husband was diabetic/dementia and no one ever seems to have the same loss. Now, believe it was too soon to attend. Husband passed 12/7/2017. Thank you for this help.
Kate April 17, 2018 at 4:31 pm
All comments were very helpful. Became overwhelmed by hearing others losses. Also, husband was diabetic/dementia and no one ever seems to have the same loss. Now, believe it was too soon to attend. Husband passed 12/7/2017. Thank you for this help.
Lisa January 8, 2019 at 4:06 pm
Dear Kate, I am so sorry for your loss and that you feel you are alone in your experience of the loss of your husband. I completely understand how you feel. My husband also passed from a condition that also caused a cognitive decline, similar to dementia. My husband was only 58 and before becoming ill he was so smart,quick witted and the one that always knew just what to do in any situation. I still have guilt and second guess how things should of been different I was his caregiver for a long time and it was so hard to see the decline. He was no longer the man that he was. It was so hard to lose him. I miss him so much and have not been able to move on. I basically just stay home. I have not tried a support group. I wish you the best. I am further along in my loss, but the holidays were a real challenge. I’m sorry for the long post but I just didn’t want you to think that you were alone.
Maisah Pasha July 29, 2017 at 7:46 pm
I have a group to do this week, therefore I am hoping that I can get some help. Several questions come to mind as I am trying to ask for input. First how many times should you bring up the death of a fellow member of a group when the death has been talked about already? What if the member died at the location of the group meetings. Finally, if the group is not ordinarily a grief group; should the group resume it’s original purpose.
Tracey July 4, 2017 at 6:11 am
I run a grief support group in my home after losing my youngest daughter a yr & half ago , It changes every month , sometimes I have from 2 to 6 people , its not for everyone , I wondered what else I can bring into the group to help others move foward ? Thank you
B. August 9, 2016 at 6:36 am
Such an interesting article! I lost my young adult son, and within a month went to two different grief groups specifically for child loss. It was too soon. But the one (Compassionate Friends) really angered me. The whole 2.5 hour session was just for everyone making their introductions (large group). I was insulted that some people (who took their time with their introduction) left at some point. Very disrespectful to those who had yet to make their introductions! The other grief group was okay, but then the professional facilitators seemed unable to deal with the few who monopolized the group. I did another very structured Biblical-based group (GriefShare), which was much better. Again, though, the facilitator couldn’t deal with a monopolizer (this person really insulted the group when they said divorce was worse than death). And then, finally, I attended a grief group based on a book, which was okay. I haven’t been to one of the groups specifically for child loss in four years (my son died 5+ years ago).The thought of being there, surrounded by sadness, just really turns me off now. I’d rather stay at home and veg out with Netflix.
Litsa August 9, 2016 at 11:02 pm
B- thanks so much for sharing your range of group experiences. Groups are not for everyone and some groups are definitely a better fit than others. We are all for Netflix coping (in moderation, of course!) because sometime a little time and space as a “break” from grief is just what you need!
kim August 8, 2016 at 9:45 am
Sorry that should have read “the chaplain was moving on…” not voting….
Kim August 8, 2016 at 9:44 am
I finally found a local group and attended once a month for a few months, then the night before a meeting, I got a call telling me it was last meeting as the chaplain was voting on…no new group formed:( Then, after months of no group, a new one was started, I was the only person to show, so they canceled that group as well:( I have been left out in the dust without so much as a don’t let the door hit you on your way out:(:( So, the first group was great…the second, horrible experience. “Sorry but your grief alone isn’t enough for us to continue a group”…they didn’t even try to spend a few more weeks to get more interest…sigh. It’s. lonely road, even when there are others around…
Eleanor August 8, 2016 at 11:28 am
Ugh, sorry Kim. As someone who has been on both ends of this, it’s frustrating all around. Your story actually touches on a major issue with support groups that we should have mentioned, finding one that runs on a consistent basis is hit or miss. Group leaders come and go and sometimes it can be a struggle to get group members to attend. I would have hoped that if they weren’t going to hold the group they would have tried to work with you to locate another group or to find other resources in the community. I’m sorry you haven’t had much luck with this. You’re so right, it is a lonely road.
Kim August 11, 2016 at 1:51 pm
Eleanor, thank you for the reply. Sometimes I feel left out in the dust, feel weird when I bring that up(I had someone recently say they were concerned for me after I called her out on not replying to my numerous calls texts emails…only when I called her out was she concerned for me, not the many many times she left me hanging:( ) It doesn’t feel good when you don’t feel heard…so thank you for hearing me 🙂 Very much appreciated.
JULIET June 29, 2016 at 11:30 am
I lost my father and my mother within a year (last year). The shock of it gave a heart attack and a TIA. I have not been able to recover. I miss them both. I was close to them in different ways. With my father talking about books and trips and with my mom talking about shopping and decorating and doing crafts together. I go around the day talking to them, they help me make decisions. I have had marvelous vivid dreams with both. They are together, in the dreams we have embraced and I have danced with my mother, and she has been sitting next to me, smiling. We have been holding hands. When I wake up i realize it is a dream but it makes me wanting to join them wherever they are, they look so happy and here I am unhappy because I lost them. I feel very very sad they are gone. My childhood and teen age years were wonderful, they were caring and nurturing, always motivating and encouraging me and my sister to achieve what we wanted to do, and we studied careers which were very satisfactory to us. I feel like in a cloud. I was not expecting my mom to die, she was full of life and with a great memory but she died suddenly and I know cpr and tried to resuscitate her but could not. The circumstances of her death are so painful to me because I did my best to resuscitate her and I could not. I felt helpless with this. And I wish I had done more, bring oxygen to her to make her breathe better, she was short of breath but I didn’t know she needed oxygen and I could have gotten her oxygen. I dwell in her last moments, how did she feel when she was trying to breath and could not, with me in her room and she was not able to tell me anything. I noticed her breathing stopped and passed a mirror and there was life, she was warm but then when i did mouth to mouth she did not respond and the cpr I did more than 20 hard pushes in her heart and she did not come back. I feel helpless. Could I have done more? I came back to my husband and my son, both went to be with me for a week in another country and had to return but of course, my best friend, my mom, is not here anymore. I go thru motions of doing things, shower, dress, fix my house, but I am not here. I am very depressed. I was very happy before they died. I see movies but for the moment, after that I got no recollection of what i saw. I half listen to people. I go to a grief support but I just listen. I have gone to eat with this group. My first step was to enroll in the grief support, the second step was to go out with some of them to eat dinner. I have good friends who have been for me but they have many problems of their own. One of them lost her husband recently. The other friend, her son committed suicide, other friends are going thru divorce when they still love the partner but the partner doesn’t love them anymore. I don’t read religious things because I don’t believe in those things and the books do not comfort me. If someone has a faith…it might help but I got no faith. Anyway sometimes I don’t want to get up of my bed, sometimes i get up but sit doing nothing and just thinking about them and other times I cry the whole day or cry whole days. Because I am desperated. I see no way out of this hole I am inside and can’t get out.
Kim August 11, 2016 at 3:32 pm
Juliet, I’m so sorry for your loss.
PARM LANIADO June 6, 2016 at 3:00 am
An excellent article about the benefits and disadvantages of a grief support group. Grief support groups can help many but to some it never works out?
Christine October 28, 2015 at 2:46 am
I read that a facilitator should charge a fee for members to join a support group. The reason is so members are inclined to show up. Your feedback . . .please.
Eleanor October 28, 2015 at 9:33 am
That’s an interesting question and I honestly am thinking about this for the first time so maybe other people have a more informed perspective. Sometimes people need to charge a fee for running the group (space, snacks, etc), but strictly speaking as a way to get people to attend….I think the answer depends. For Litsa and I, living and working in an urban area with people from all types of backgrounds, I would be hesitant to charge a fee just for the sake of retention because I would hate for cost to serve as a deterant for people to show up in the first place. When you’re thinking about getting help but scared or hesitant, you can find all sort of excuses not to, and I could see cost as being a barrier. That being said, you may live in a community where cost is less of an issue but in that case would you ever really charge a fee high enough for people to care about wasting it? Personally, I have dropped plenty of things I’ve paid for because I didn’t like them or they became an inconvenience and I’m sure there are other people like me.
I would try and think about other ways to engage people in the group and to not only want to attend the next session, but to feel like they may be missed if they don’t. Make sure people understand the structure of sessions and know what to expect from the group. Allow new people an opportunity to share and be a part of the group from the start and let more senior people take on more responsibility for supporting new group members. Find ways to bridge your current session and the next session together – tell what you will be discussing the following week (if anything special), ask people to bring a recommendation of a book or an article, talk about a fun activity you are going to do next week, ask people to sign up to bring snacks/coffee for certain sessions, ask people to share more about something next session, actually say ‘see you next week’.
Those are just my thoughts on the topic. If anyone else has experience with retention, please lets know.
Christine October 28, 2015 at 2:35 am
I found that a support group can have a have a significant role in the grieving process. However, I am disappointed wth the lack of asisstance in my community especially for youth.
Eleanor October 28, 2015 at 9:34 am
Have you looked into grief centers in your area?
Correy Smith October 9, 2015 at 4:56 pm
A relief group sure is something that my sister will probably need to be in especially in bereavement counseling. Ever since our grandmother passed away it turned out pretty hard for her. For me, it was pretty hard but I was able to overcome my grief. https://www.waltercarter.com.au/PageA.asp?P=64&M=6
Maylissa May 22, 2015 at 8:58 am
I consider grief support groups, and even paid support services, real minefields. I tried 5 different groups for various losses but none worked out.
When I’d lost both my Mother and brother, one I attended (6 or 8? weekly sessions) was led by a trained grief counselor and an assistant-in-training, but they never reigned in the loud, pushy “monopolizer” of the group, so in all that time I never even got the chance to talk about my brother’s death for more than a minute. Yet at the end, they asked everyone for a “suggested” donation starting at $200. While a few members were “clicking” and planning post-group meetups, I only made one connection, who dumped me soon thereafter as her own healing was supported by other grieving family members, while I had no one to grieve with.
Another was a one-night art therapy group for pet loss, but just drawing pictures did nothing for me. I later tried another led by the same woman, but felt left out since the few others there knew her and each other very well, so I was the only newcomer and was barely included in any dialogue. Plus, my grief was much fresher by comparison, so I found the light and happy atmosphere too discordant. I had thought the counselor’s therapy dog was to be included (why I went) but he was only IN the room and not a part of the session.
Another private workshop (a few weeks long) was billed for “any” type of loss, and I even spoke to the coordinator beforehand about its suitability for me. But the only 2 other people who showed up had spousal losses, while mine was again for animals and a parent, so in the very first hour the leader suggested I might be better off to just take the workbook home and do it on my own.
Another I attempted was also dedicated to pet loss, led simply by a volunteer at the city’s “animal services” (not a place I wanted to be at the time!), with barely any direction provided, and attendees whose relationships with their animals had been so minimal compared to my own that I simply didn’t feel any connection to anyone. By then I was so discouraged, I never returned to check out another session with possibly different people.
So with every loss I was forced to seek out private therapy sessions with 3 different therapists (with various approaches), where I received *some* assistance, but not as much as I really required, due to cost factors, therapists’ inability to address extremely complicated loss, and disparate views on especially “pet” loss…the latter being extremely tough to find good and qualified assistance for where I live. I’ve mainly given up, as the energy and time required to search for qualified help whilst grieving heavily (when it’s really needed) just hasn’t been worth it.
Kim August 12, 2016 at 12:47 pm
I’m sorry Maylissa for your experiences- telling someone they would be better off doing this work alone sure wasn’t very thoughtful. I understand about not connecting, I’ve felt the same thing. I hope you’re feeling ok, feel free to contact me if your like…rockymountainhigh at gmail
Maylissa August 12, 2016 at 2:12 pm
Thanks, Kim, that’s very kind of you! 🙂 I’ll keep it in mind (right now, it’s the “barely even having energy to get dressed” effect going on for me), as aside from other losses/griefs that are hanging on, unexpectedly there’s a NEW shock and loss (and its related grief component) I’m having to deal with – that of my partner’s impending unemployment, leaving us suddenly incomeless….and there are sure no (free!) support groups I’ve ever heard of for THAT kind of loss. Once the employer benefits are no longer available, I/we will have no other recourse.
I also can relate to what you said to Eleanor about having to “call out” your friend before she would even respond. Ugh! WHY are so many people so self-absorbed these days?! I’m presently in the mental process myself of dropping someone from my “friend” list for responding to my personally-devastating news with a mere one-acronym text response of “omg!,” and nothing more. It’s been almost a week since now, and not even one question about what happened. (and I’ve known this person for over 2 decades)
After all, “being heard” or “hearing” someone, of necessity, also includes demonstrating some INTEREST in what someone is sharing…NOT of sending the message that you’ve provided them their little dose of weekly “drama,” thank-you-very-much, and can now just take a flying leap into no-man’s-land.
Bob April 1, 2015 at 12:38 pm
Roberta, I lost my 17 year old son to a car accident three years ago. I used the public library to find the different support groups in my area. The post above about the positives and negatives are pretty much right on. Peace and comfort to you.
roberta March 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm
I lost my daughter 3 months ago and i wish i could find a support group
Cleo August 8, 2016 at 8:58 pm
I live in Denver and I lost my 35 year old daughter two months ago. I found GreifShare, it is spiritual and the videos are good, but I think I need to see a therapist of some sort because of the way my daughter past in the er. It goes over and over in my mind and I miss her so much. Good article.
Litsa August 9, 2016 at 11:07 pm
Cleo, if you are dealing with intrusive thoughts and images seeing a therapist is probably a good idea. They should be able to help you process some of the emotions and also learn techniques to deal with the obsessive thoughts. Take care.
Kim August 11, 2016 at 3:34 pm
Roberta, have you tried reaching out to a local hospice facility? They may be able to help you.
Susan Rowen LMFT March 26, 2015 at 11:58 am
I am in agreement, Grief support groups are not for everyone. As a professional and licensed therapist and a consultant for HOPE Connection, a non profit organization that has offered grief support groups to the community since 1979, I facilitate 2 grief groups each week. I also have a private practice but I do not see people who are grieving the death of a loved one in a private setting in the beginning stages of grief. I believe that for the few potential negative aspects of grieving in a group setting, the group as a whole, has a much better potential to heal, especially if facilitated by licensed therapists. People need to feel “normal” and what better way to be ensured that you are not “going crazy” than being in a room with other people that are experiencing the same feelings and situations that you are going thru. The idea that grieving and all that goes with grieving is not an illness is best substantiated and experienced in a group facilitated by a licensed therapist who can, in an academic, way, support and validate behaviors and emotions associated with loss.One of the other most positive aspects of a grieving in a group setting is the potential for connecting socially with people in a like situation.
Eleanor March 26, 2015 at 1:22 pm
Really well said, Susan! Thank you for sharing your take on this.