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To “Group” or “Not to Group”

How to help someone decide if attending a bereavement support group will be helpful?

Making a decision to embrace the pain of losing someone takes courage. Many people find it helpful after the death of a loved one to attend a bereavement support group.  However, making an initial decision to attend a group can be in itself overwhelming.

Bereaved individuals will often turn to professional caregivers with questions about bereavement support groups. We hope that this blog will give you some insight into helping individuals decide if the support group fits for them or not.  After a death, there are many uncertainties a bereaved person is experiencing and joining a group may very well be one of them. Questions that may be swirling around for the potential group member is “Will I be forced to talk about my experiences?  Will I be criticized or analyzed for what I say?  Will I feel better or worse after hearing other individual’s stories?  You have to admit, it seems counter-intuitive to believe that sharing one’s own story and listening to other’s grief journey can be helpful.

As an advocate for the bereaved, share with them options that may be available.  Do your homework and see what groups are available in the community.  You want to make sure that they will be attending a group that has a trained facilitator.   We encourage interviewing the facilitator or talk to others that have attended the group.  People need to feel that the group is a safe environment in which they can talk, listen, and simply be.

When interviewing the facilitator, you want to know they see grief not a problem to be solved, but rather a process where people can embrace their pain, and experience healing that allows for growth, change, and transformation

Support groups give people an opportunity to connect with others who are grieving and learn that they are not, and that they have something to offer each other. Given that, we encourage potential group members to think about a couple of questions to ask before joining a group.

First of all, are you a “group-type” person?    If you are a very private person you might find groups to be intrusive and uncomfortable.

Another question to ponder is what kind of grief load are you carrying?  Do you have a complicated situation that needs to be processed before you are ready to attend?  If so it can be helpful to sort out these issues with a professional counselor before attending a support group.

One of the biggest advantages to being part of a support group is that one realizes that they are not alone in their journey.  Often when individuals share their feelings and experiences, there is a sense of relief and renewed energy that comes from being able to be vulnerable and honest in a group with others who understand.

We invite readers to reflect and respond to the question, “To group or not to group…”

Darwin Huartson, M.Div., BCC

Celeste Miller, MA, LPC

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