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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

Holding on While Letting Go

The concept of “holding on” while “letting go” is counterintuitive. It doesn’t really make sense, especially when you are fearful or apprehensive of what lies ahead. One is reminded of the image of a trapeze artist. The only way forward is to “let go” and trust that he/she will catch the next bar.

The same might be said about the grief journey. There is no magic pill or wand that will take away our pain. We will not “get over” the loss of a loved one, but we will learn how to live with it. We can and will heal, rebuilding our lives around the loss we have suffered. We will be whole again, but we will never be the same.

Sometimes in the grief journey we might be confused about what it means to let go. One person said, letting go seems like I am betraying my husband’s memory. Another widow told the support group, “I don ‘t want to let go because I am afraid that I will forget him.” That’s what memories are for. They are like mini visitations becoming a bridge rather than the pain. Memories heal in grief and keep us connected to those we have lost, while resisting memories can disconnect us from our loved ones and keep us stuck. Holding onto memories is the beginning of letting go. How do you let go? You let yourself go backwards in order to go forwards. This is the opposite of what you would think.

Grief is a time when you review the whole relationship. Another way to look at it is, when we acknowledge our pain, it allows us to hold onto the person and not the pain. To “work your grief” is to process the pain. Crying and other forms of active grieving help move our grief. Recognize that feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, remorse, and relief are all normal responses and help us to heal in our grief.

Healing begins when we allow ourselves to go back and remember. In the early months of grief, it seems that any memory brings tears and pain. It hurts to remember the happy times as much as it hurts to remember the sad times. It just hurts to remember. Embrace your pain rather than fight it. You are doing some of your best grief work as you let yourself remember. Memories heal as they hurt. They become the threads that stitch our broken hearts back together.

By processing the pain and letting it pass through us, it becomes a purer sorrow, freeing you to remember – “holding on while letting go.” Healthy grieving was expressed by a man who said, “I’ve found a place in my heart where I can always access her.” He had moved from missing her so much physically to knowing her in spirit and finding a permanent place of belonging in his heart. This realization helped him to “let go,” freeing him to invest energy in his new life.

Creating rituals is a helpful way to let go of pain. One woman in a support group shared with the group that she was bringing a “dump bag” to the next group meeting. She invited others to deposit objects, thoughts, and other things that they didn’t want to be haunted by.

When we experience healing in the pain, we are freed to remember those we’ve lost with a sense of joy and gratitude and free to live more fully in the present.

We invite you to share your thoughts and/or rituals that allow you to “hold on while letting go” and how that ongoing connection gives purpose and energy for living.

Written by: 

Celeste Miller, MA, LPC, Porter Loring Mortuaries Bereavement Coordinator
Darwin Huartson, M.Div., BCC, Porter Loring Mortuaries Community Coordinator

Introduction

Who wants to talk about death, funerals, or grieving? In our society, most people do not. It makes them feel an assortment of emotions from being uncomfortable to scared to sad or angry, which is all understandable. Our hope for this blog is not necessarily to break those emotions down to acceptance, but rather to let you know what you feel is normal and to educate you on a variety of topics.

We will be posting articles from our President, Helen Loring Dear, our Bereavement Coordinator, Celeste Miller, M.A., LPC, our Community Coordinator, Darwin Huartson, M.Div., BCC, and possible guest writers as well.

If you have a topic you would like for us to possibly discuss, please email us at plm-sa@porterloring.com.

Helen

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