After the death of a significant person in our lives, everything feels different. Our spectrum of emotions is huge, and when grieving we can experience a ton of emotions, sometimes all at once. Grief can make us feel vulnerable, overwhelmed, confused, fearful, angry and irritable. Sometimes we feel relief, guilt, and regret. It can feel confusing to have so much going on inside us all at once. Normal is turned upside down, and even basic tasks can feel insurmountable!
When these things happen, sometimes the best thing that we can do for ourselves is to get support.
I remember my first time attending HeartLight Center. Initially I was very hesitant, I had lots of people in my life telling me to get help, and for a long time I just couldn’t. For whatever reason, that changed and finally I gave in and went. I had been worried that people would give me the same clichés, or that they would therapize me. If I had one more person tell me that “everything happens for a reason” I thought I would lose it. Instead when I went, I was met with warmth. The facilitator was so kind to me, and welcomed me gently in a way that felt so caring and like she was genuine. I didn’t hear her say a single cliché, in fact instead I heard her verbalize so much of what I was experiencing inside! I know we lived completely different experiences, but she also made me feel so… dare I say, normal? The other attendees were also really supportive, it was nice to hear them share their stories, it helped me feel safe to share my own. The group quickly became a lifeline. I’d start thinking to myself, “I just have to make it until the next group” and then I would be in a space with people who “got it” again. The world around us doesn’t always know what to “do” with grief, and they try to “fix” and it sometimes just dismisses. But these people in group… they got it. And I’m so grateful.
Whether in a group setting or with an individual counselor, support during the grieving process can be incredibly helpful for sifting through life before, life now, and life going forward, with someone or others who get it.
The beautiful thing about a grief support group is that you can be seen, heard and understood from others who are going through their own grief journey. We can companion each other during our process.
Grief support groups can offer a sense of belonging and community. A cohesive group allows members to discuss collective challenges as well as individual issues specific to grief. It can give a sense of normalization in your grief experience, knowing that others have gone through something similar to you.
You aren’t alone in your grief journey.
The trained grief group facilitator is there to help maintain flow, mediation, and support to all attendees of the group. The facilitator can offer psychoeducation about grief (i.e. information about the specifics of grief from an academic lens) and are skilled in holding space to support the groups’ processing. Facilitators guide the group for cohesion, provide support and direction. Facilitators help engage the attendees in meaningful exchanges, helping to stay on-topic and give attendees the space for processing.
In participating with a group you get the opportunity to share information and learn from peers, helping each other as part of your own healing. There can be a natural sense of hope inspired from sharing in this space with other bereaved individuals – they “get it” because they’ve been there or are there. You not only learn about others through the stories they share, but you also get to reflect and learn about yourself and your lived experiences in a different way. You share what you want when you are ready, and there are others surrounding you to support you when you are ready.
When exploring your options, some helpful questions to ask when you’re researching grief support groups include:
o What specific grief counseling training have you had as a grief group facilitator?
o How long have you been in the grief field? What is your credentialing?
o What is the style of the group you are facilitating? Is there a curriculum/what is the structure of the group?
o Are there openings at this time? When does the group meet and for how long?
o What does it cost to participate in the group? If there is a cost, do you accept insurance and if so what kinds?
o What is the intake process to get started in the group?
For some, getting involved in a group can feel a little intimidating or scary. It’s hard to know what to expect, and it can feel uncomfortable to some to share in front of others. The helpful thing to remember is that there is no obligation in the group setting to share, other than during introductions. You can sit and simply listen, or you can share your story, or about your loved one, or anything that you are struggling with in order to get ideas for coping. Some people may talk more than others during the group, and the facilitator will do their best to attend to the needs of each individual attending the group. We’re here for you!
At HeartLight Center, we honor grief as a unique and individual experience, while it is also part of the universal human condition. Your care matters, and your grief is valid. We believe that grief is the normal, natural response to all loss, and that everyone has the right to grieve in a safe place with support. Our facilitators are all trained, some are professional therapists and some are peer facilitators, all are very familiar with processing grief. Our goal is to create a space that is safe, unbiased, and nonjudgmental where grief can be shared, explored and processed, while also providing ideas for self-care and coping.
To register to attend any of our groups, visit our events page here: https://heartlightcenter.org/events-calendar/
For some people, being involved in both individual grief counseling and grief support groups can be of significant benefit to their overall grief processing. The good news is that there are support options!
Not all counselors or facilitators are going to approach things the same way, and not all groups are designed the same. There is no right or wrong, it’s about what feels best for you. At HeartLight Center, we don’t have any obligations or requirements, you can attend whatever group or groups feel right for you and your needs.
If you have any questions about HeartLight Center or grief support, please contact us! We’re here to help.
720-748-9908 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Blog Written By: Allison Gary, LPC, Program Director for HeartLight Center
September 28th, 2021