Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why Attend A Support Group?

Five months after Deb died, my illusion that I could go on living as though nothing had changed was thoroughly shattered. I knew I had to start grieving, but I had no idea what that involved. So, what does any sane 30-something do in such a situation? Ask Google ;-) Support groups seemed the way to go, so I quickly found the one closest to me, Bereaved Families of Ontario — Ottawa Region.

Now, there's a big difference between deciding to go and actually going. All I knew (or thought I knew) about support groups was that alcoholics went to them (AA), or they could help you sleep (Fight Club) ;-)

Let's be clear: I knew I needed to go, but I did not want to go. Fight Club was certainly on my mind, and I toyed briefly with writing "Cornelius" on my nametag. In the end, I remember sitting around a circle with about 20 other people who had all lost their spouse. I'm not normally one to engage in schadenfreude, but there is something to be said for realizing that others have it worse than you do.

In I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can [pp 136-138.], the author enumerates 15 ways a support group can be helpful :

  1. A support group facilitator gives people permission for intimacy in their conversation. Little time is wasted on polite small talk. You get to know a room full of strangers extremely well in a couple of hours. You feel connected to the world again.

  2. A support group lessens the feeling of isolation. It keeps you from feeling that you are the only person in the whole world who is going through this experience. The group facilitator does the community organization to bring young widowed people together. When you lessen your feelings of isolation, you automatically increase your feelings of self esteem.

  3. You will be able to make new friends to help fill the void in your life. It will allow you to network a new social life. You will meet people from all walks of life. You will make friends with people who never knew your husband or your wife and who will like you for the person you are now. This will raise your self esteem. You will have new friends with whom you can feel extremely comfortable because you know they understand. You can let your guard down.

  4. You will learn how to improve your communication skills with others. The goal of good communication is to tell the truth to yourself and to others. "You will let the inside stuff get out." Some formerly shy people will become very talkative as they realize that their spouses did the talking for both of them.

  5. You will feel physically comfortable in the room. There is an automatic bond between young widowed people, much like the bond between war veterans.

  6. You will serve as role models for each other and help each other find your own unique way of handling this experience. You will give each other permission to get on with your lives. How are widowed people supposed to behave? How long should you feel miserable after a death? How long do you wait before you leave the house in the evening with a friend? When is it okay to smile without feeling guilty? You will learn there is no one right way to grieve.

  7. A group will force you to set aside time to think and grieve with people who genuinely understand what you are going through. You will have your feelings validated and any feelings of guilt you have will lessen. By setting aside time to think and grieve, you will be able to accept the death a bit faster and you will feel better faster.

  8. A support group allows you to discuss your husband or wife openly, serving as a mini-memorial service to the deceased. A support group makes you feel your memories are important because you are important and your husband was important. This will also increase your self esteem.

  9. A support group will aid in overcoming your denial of the death. The fact of the matter is that you wouldn't be at the group if your husband hadn't died. You cannot sit there and pretend you are not a widow at the same time.

  10. You will get the support you need to enable you to resist outside pressure from parents and friends. It will leave you less vulnerable to "the first nice man who comes along."

  11. You will learn to recognize the vulnerability in others and thereby learn to recognize it in yourself. You will be more careful with yourself and have a greater respect for yourself.

  12. You will meet people who are coping better than you seem to be and this will give you inspiration and optimism that you can feel better too.

  13. A support group is a safe place to relax and talk to people after a death without family and friends accusing you of socializing too soon.

  14. You will be applauded for your new accomplishments. Everyone gets very excited when someone makes a stride, e.g. buys a house, gets a job, starts socializing. The group is very supportive. That's why it's called a support group. Give it a chance.

  15. You will truly enjoy the company of a group of sensitive, compassionate people. The members do not just sit around and discuss their grief. On many evenings there is so much laughter that you'd swear you were at a comedy show. After a death, sensitivity is heightened and that includes sensitivity to humor. Many young widowed people say they would have been totally lost had their senses of humor not remained intact.

If you haven't yet joined a support group, please give one a try. I can't recommend them highly enough.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

How does one find a support group in their area????