THE COMFORTING ARMS OF A SUPPORT GROUP
When Peter died, almost two years ago, I openly welcomed all the help I could get. I went to a grief therapist and learned tools for coping with the daily onslaught of bottomless and relentless pain. I learned to find solace in the support of my friends and family, and accepted their cradling arms and nurturing words of “we got your back.”
But I knew I needed more support, and was lucky enough to find a haven at the amazing Our House Grief Support Center http://www.ourhouse-grief.org/. I intuitively understood that one-on-one grief therapy was good, but that a group would be a safe haven to find solace, companionship, and a shared sense of understanding. I had read a great deal about groups and I knew that Our House had totally affordable grief support groups that are specific to the age of the griever, the length of time since the death, and most importantly, the fact that each of us in the group had endured the death of a beloved spouse. The center also supports grieving children, teens, and adults in both Spanish and English.
A month ago, I finished my eighteen-month commitment to a healing group at Our House. The group bonded from the day we began. Family and friends can help you to a point. A group “gets it.” Once we told our stories, we found a mutual and tacit understanding of our loss. We were like-minded folks hoping that our shared pain and permission to grieve openly, (buoyed by many tissue boxes in abundance all over the room), would take us through our journey. We were not all the same age, but we shared our hearts, and our hearts were healed as a group. I am sure everyone feels their group is special, but I have a special kinship to my peeps, who called me “Miss Sassy,” because I pretty much would say anything and openly talk about my tsouris (Yiddish for troubles, tribulations, and suffering). This was a safe sounding board for us to frankly share our deepest angst and pain. I will forever be grateful to my group members for carrying me through the tough times, and transporting us all through the tunnel of grief and out into the light of the possibility of new life.
There were ten when we started, but we shrank to six key and vocal members with two fantastic leaders who helped guide us through the stepping stones on the path toward finding our new lives. Our caring facilitators took us through exercises, journaling, and places we were afraid to tread so that we could face the world again. Some of us had experienced sudden deaths like I did, but others had slower more lingering deaths. It didn’t matter. We were all in the same bottomless pit of a boat sailing through winds and storms of pain which we navigated together. No one stopped us from crying. The leaders didn’t offer us tissues because no one should offer a tissue which might inhibit the freedom to cry. Instead we offered hugs, and embracing arms, and tissues to each other, when each of us dared to reveal their innermost thoughts.
Being in a support group is empowering because you learn you are not alone. Others have gone before you, and others will follow you, but knowing that we are coming together and moving on from an isolated view of pain into a collective goal toward healing, is the way grief support groups are most beneficial. We shared coping techniques, we never judged one another, and we exchanged thoughts and ideas which mutually benefitted out recovery. Sure, the exercises were disgustingly wrenching, especially writing letters to our loved ones, but it all made sense when we graduated and knew that we would always somehow be in each other’s lives in some capacity in the future. We had shared the worst emotional pain of our lives and that combined emotion kept us forging forward and attempting to discover some kind of joy in life.
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