Understanding the Positives and Pitfalls of Grief Support Groups
They say “time heals all wounds”. Yet, when you’re mourning the death of a spouse, child, or anyone dear to you, there are no benchmarks that can guarantee when you will feel better.
Even after months and years, the anguish you experience following the death of a loved one can remain intense. In terms of grief, you may feel as if friends or family members are no longer on the same page as you. Feeling pain daily, having trouble letting go, or getting angry on regular basis are all signals that it might be time to seek grief support. If you are considering joining a grief support group, below are some pros and cons to consider.
Potential Benefits of Grief Support Groups
There are many positives to receiving group support with your grief. In a bereavement support group, you may find:
● Community. You’ll meet individuals who understand what you are going through. They are familiar with the ups and downs of the grieving process and can provide emotional support in a way that even some well-meaning friends and family members cannot.
● Learning opportunities. Seeing how others cope can help you to identify your own grief and help you to move along in your own grieving process.
● Belonging. There are bereavement groups for all types of loss. There are those for coping with the death of a spouse, suicide, tragic losses, overdoses, and more. Because the other group members are coping with a similar loss, they are better able to understand your unique pain.
● Free support. Support groups provide grief counseling free of charge. If lack of money is preventing you from seeking outside help, a support group can fill that void.
● An outlet for your pain. There’s no need to edit yourself. You are free to talk about your loved one. You can explore your own feelings, whether they involve guilt, despair, or anger, and even relief if the death was drawn-out by a long illness.
● Validation. Those who have walked in your shoes know that grief doesn’t go away overnight. It can touch on all areas of your life, from work to home and everywhere in between.
● Encouragement. Support groups encourage you to take care of yourself. Often we equate the length of time and depth in which we mourn a loved one indicates how much we loved them.
● Hope. Meeting others who have been in your shoes who have allowed happiness into their lives can help you to do the same.
Potential Pitfalls of Grief Support Groups
At times, group grief support may not be right for you. In a bereavement support group, you may find:
● It’s a bad fit. The group may be focused on a loss that you haven’t experienced. If it is an open grief support group, you may find that the majority of individuals are coping with the death of a spouse, while you have lost a child. While both types of losses are devastating, you may benefit better from a group that shares more commonality with your particular situation.
● Negativity. It can be discouraging to be in a group that is attached to negativity. Certain group members may also monopolize the room with stories of their own grief, leaving little room for others to talk.
● There’s a cultural mismatch. You may sense that the attitude and culture of the group is very different from your own. Perhaps the group is focused on advocacy rather than the grieving process or there are spiritual activities such as prayer or meditation that you are uncomfortable with.
● Spotty attendance. Group attendance may be sparse of inconsistent, making you feel less comfortable with opening up about your feelings.
● Lack of structure. Support groups are often led by lay individuals who have been in your shoes or are supportive by nature, but who may not be professionals in mental health care. This can lead to meetings that lack structure or the exact support that you need.
Although there are positive and pitfalls to joining a bereavement support group, they can be very helpful and the good often outweighs the bad. Finding grief support of any kind is vital if you are stuck in the grieving process and are unable to move forward in your life. While one bereavement group may not work for you, there may be another that is a better fit. Grief recovery takes time. Consider attending the group several times before you make a decision to stay or move along to another type of grief support. If you are feeling shy or uncertain, see if one a family member or trusted friend can attend the first meeting with you.
To heal, the most important thing you can do is to take care of yourself. If you need further assistance in grief recovery or in locating support groups near you, we can help. Please reach out to our compassionate team of professionals.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.