Q. My husband died two months ago and my family says I should join a bereavement group. They’ve already found a group in my area. I don’t want to go because I don’t want to listen to other people’s sad stories. Am I just being stubborn as my brother says?
A. The question isn’t whether you’re stubborn or not. You feel the way you feel. It’s important to resist pressure from others to do something you don’t want to do. Some people find bereavement groups helpful, but we’re all different. For others, groups are “a mixed bag” or even a negative experience. Look at the pros and cons for you, some of which you may not have considered before. For example, could you use the structure of group meetings in your life? It may be comforting to know that you attend a bereavement group every Tuesday. The meeting serves as a kind of anchor for the week for some people. A group can also be helpful to learn how others handle situations, such as dealing with your late husband’s employer or buying a grave stone.
Groups offer an opportunity to meet new people who face challenges similar to yours and to make new friends. Some groups go out for coffee or dinner together after meetings and/or plan activities for painful holidays like Valentine’s Day.
Another issue is the kind of group your family has found for you. It’s important to join one specifically for widows and widowers and including people in a congenial age range. If you’re in your fifties or sixties, many of your concerns are different from an 80+ group. If you have young children, you want at least some participants to be in similar circumstances. Any group should also have a credentialed group leader, such as a social worker or therapist. Why? Because you need a professional to correct any misinformation, help members deal with conflicts that may arise, and make sure a few people don’t do most of the talking. Realize, too, that you can leave a group at any time if it is not filling your needs.
If you stick to your decision not to join a group, you can point out to family members that you can always reconsider at some point in the future if you wish. This isn’t a case of “the last train at the station.”
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at email@example.com.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author—and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.
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