Q. My older sister recently died and my friends have urged me to join a support group to help me deal with her death. I'm not quite sure how to go about doing this - could you help direct me?
Often, when we are grieving the loss of a loved one, we may find ourselves questioning whether or not our feelings are normal. We may discover ourselves asking, “are there other people out there who are like me and experiencing similar feelings as I am”? Bereavement support groups can be exceedingly helpful in lessening feelings of isolation and aloneness. Not only do these support groups help us cope with the loss we are experiencing, but they offer fertile ground for camaraderie and support. Support groups provide us a safe space where we can share our story with others, grieve, and begin the road to healing.
Grief is a journey. Although everyone in a bereavement support group is brought together by the commonality of a loss, it simultaneously is important to remember that everyone copes with loss differently. In a support group not only will you be able to listen to the ways in which other people cope with a loss but you may also learn and develop new strategies for coping with your loss as well.
Many times people who engage in bereavement support groups frequently feel like “family”. This is a common experience as group members in sharing stories and feelings create lasting and powerful bonds with each other. Participants in support groups validate our experience and emotions. They reinforce our strengths when we may experience intense feelings such as sadness, anger or confusion. Group members support us as we remember our loved one and go through holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and other significant milestones.
In closing let me mention that although bereavement support groups can certainly strengthen and foster our capacity to cope with loss, it is important to keep in mind that support groups may not be for everyone. If this should be your experience, there is nothing wrong with you. Perhaps individual bereavement counseling would be more helpful to you during this period.