When you lose someone or something that you love, grief is the most natural response. Sharing your experiences, thoughts and feelings with a group of people who have also experienced a loss can be cathartic. There are a variety of grief support groups available to you; choosing the right one will make all the difference.
Grief support can play a vital role in the mental health and well-being of those left behind. Grief support counselors help friends and family understand and work through the stages of grief in a safe setting. Licensed counselors work with family, friends and caregivers of the deceased in order to help those people cope with the loss that they feel.
Unfortunately, there are no simple answers when it comes to grief. Everyone experiences the various stages of grief in different ways, and everyone needs different levels of support. Grief support services provide education, support and compassion in a confidential setting.
While there is little doubt that you can work through the stages of grief on your own, there is no reason to do so. Attending a group that offers grief support has many benefits that you will not realize when attempting to get through the process yourself. Not only will you be in a room of non-judgmental people, but you will gain understanding from people who are dealing with the same issues.
A group grief counseling teaches you coping skills that you may not be aware of otherwise. You may learn about new ways to keep your loved ones around you after their death, you will begin to understand how other family members may be dealing with the situation, and you are, in essence, giving yourself and others permission to grieve.
Types of Support Groups
When it comes to grief support groups, you can choose among dozens. There are support groups that you can attend online and remain anonymous. There are those that you can attend via Skype or other technologies. There are also groups that you attend in person, meeting face-to-face with other group members and a counselor.
Whether you attend a group that deal with the specific type of loss you have encountered, or one that is based on your specific needs, finding the right fit is important. When you choose the right group, you are more apt to be willing to open up and share your story with others.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Support Group
Before you join any support group, you have got to do a fair amount of research. You may even want to visit the group before you decide to become a member. Do understand, though, that this is not always possible due to the nature of the groups.
In any case, there are questions that you can ask to help determine which group or groups are right for you.
Who leads the group? If it is important to you that the group is facilitated by a professionally licensed counselor, ask if this is the case. Some groups, particularly those found online, are led by laymen who simply want to help others get through a difficult time in their lives.
What are the leader’s qualifications? Again, if it is important to you that the leader is a licensed counselor or therapist, ask. Once you determine that the facilitator is licensed, you can conduct further research to be sure that there are no complaints filed against that person. If the group leader is not a professional counselor or therapist, find out what qualifies them to lead a grief support group.
When does the group meet? At what location? Knowing when and where your grief support group will meet is important. It does not make good sense to join a group whose meeting times or locations are not convenient to you. If you have an erratic work schedule, you may want to choose an online support forum that you can read and post to when you are able. If your schedule is somewhat steady, a face-to-face group that meets once a week should not pose a problem.
How many people are permitted in the group? Typically, grief support groups are small. It can be difficult sharing your feelings with people, much less a large group of people. For this reason, facilitators may limit groups to a dozen or fewer people. If attending a small, intimate support group is important to you, you will want to ask how many people are regularly involved with the meetings.
Are there rules? You may be more comfortable with a group that is free-speaking and unstructured. On the other hand, you may prefer a group where one person speaks and others listen, alternating roles as the meeting progresses. Are the groups held over a meal? If you are late, will you be permitted entry? Some grief support groups are put together with very strict rules, and other groups are more informal.
Is the topic specific? Ask yourself if you only want to speak with others who have lost a child. Perhaps you are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide. Maybe your loved one died of cancer. There are grief support groups that are very specific in nature, and there are groups that deal with loss of any kind. You may be more comfortable in one as opposed to the other.
If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, you owe it to yourself to learn how to deal with your grief in a healthy way. The stages of grief can be difficult to navigate if you don’t have the proper knowledge. When you join a grief support group, you are surrounded not only by people who are sharing the same feelings, but you are led by a facilitator who can guide you in a safe and effective way. Through research, you can find the grief support group that is most suited to meet your specific needs.
Updated: October 2, 2014