A Bereavement Support GROUP

bereavement support groupMost communities offer some type of bereavement or grieving support group. It may be organized through a local hospital, church or hospital. Some mourners form their own group. They typically meet once a week or once a month, for an hour or two. They are usually free.

The purpose of such groups is to provide support, comfort, understanding, and suggestions on how to cope. They can also provide access to other resources - helpful books, recommendations for private counseling, etc.

I know I need help. I am struggling and my existing coping skills are not working. So I am attending a bereavement support group held at a local hospital. Another widow recommended it to me. She said it really helped her survive in the early months after a traumatic loss.

It meets every month for an hour. They also offer a six week course. Each week covers a variety of topics, including healing rituals and coping strategies.

The one I am attending is 90% women. Their circumstances vary - some have lost a parent, others a child, spouse or sibling. Some experienced a loss weeks or months ago. for others it has been years. They decided to attend after realizing they never really grieved (maybe because they didn't have time or were in denial), and it has come back to bite them.

In one meeting, the leader had us all write down three things about the person we lost. I think it was no coincidence that many of us wrote that the person was "loving." Maybe that's why we need help - because we lost that.


  • You don't have to talk, share or contribute if you don't want to or are not ready. You can just sit and listen.
  • Although everyone grieves in their own way (depending on their own personality, who they lost, the relationship with the departed, and the circumstances), these people can relate to what you are going through. There are commonalities.
    • They are less likely than other people to tell you to "get over it" or try to push you to move on before you are ready.
    • Their stories will help probably help you feel less crazy or out of control.
    • You don't need to deal with a loss alone.
  • You may come away with some suggestions, ideas, or skills that will help you progress through the grieving process and begin to mend.
  • It is a good choice if you don't have close friends or objective people you can talk to about your situation.
  • It may help you get "unstuck." (See thoughtworms.)
  • You can stop going at any time, e.g., when you feel you no longer need it.
  • Friendships often develop. Sometimes people go out for coffee or dinner together afterwards, or get together for companionship on a lonely holiday.


  • It can be depressing to be immersed in the grief of others when you are struggling with your own.
  • Some of the people who attend are in rough shape. (Although this may sound horrible, I actually realized I'm doing better than I thought when I saw how some of the others were doing. Maybe people who are having the most trouble coping are more likely to attend.)
  • Be prepared that some attendees may be angry, try to dominate, or try to force what works for them (their beliefs or religion) on others.
  • Patience is required. Some attendees are so consumed with their own darkness and need to pour it out. They may want to use up the whole session. Some will want to turn a facilitated format or course into a group therapy session.
  • Most of the people in my group lost someone after an extended illness. I find the challenges of dealing with a sudden death are somewhat different.


  • Give it a chance to see if it is or is not right for you. Try it at least two times to see if it helps you.
  • Choose one that has a good facilitator. In my opinion, things that come in handy are:
    • some training/experience in counseling
    • a gentle and understanding nature
    • the ability to keep things on track
    • the ability to offer helpful resources and suggestions or insights.
  • Choose one that is convenient to attend (so you won't be as tempted to skip it)
  • Ask the facilitator/group brief but specific questions on things you need help with (e.g., sleeping, how to stop obsessing, etc.)
  • After attending a group, you may wish to continue to work with an individual counselor. Contact your local hospice organization to find someone who specializes in grief and loss.

Bottom line

You may be busy or find it hard to get motivated to find and attend something like this. Consider taking the time to do it for yourself. It will be worth it if you can just take one thing away from it that helps. Give it a try - what do you have to lose?





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