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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I went to a berevement group at the Hospice where Douglas died. He had been gone for a month. The group meetings went for 6 weeks. I was sitting in my car at the Hospice parking lot hyperventilating and crying. How can I go inside that building? But I went. Same thing happened the second week. I called the coordinator the very next day and explained that I was not ready to share my grief with a group of individuals in the same situation as me. It was obvious that many of the other members were further along in their grief and/or dealing with it as though life had not changed. Nope, I never went back. I am not saying that the group was not helpful, it just was not for me. So before you say NO you might want to attend at least one meeting. I can look in the mirror and say, "I tried, Douglas, but I miss you too much to share our life with strangers right now." I know he understood. It will be 3 years this July. Still not sharing too much but I have progressed when it comes to dealing with my grief. It might take me a little longer but each ouf us is so different on how we deal with change -- and the death of a loved one, especially a spouse, it about the biggest change we will ever experience. Each day is easier. I miss Douglas, I will always love him, and I know that he and I will be together again one day!
Hugs to you all.
You may be surprised how, in some way, the other people's "sad stories" help you also in your grieving process. I'm not one for groups normally , I tend to try to be stoic & a loner -type, but I found going to grief group really gave me comfort. And if you end up going & don't like it, you can always stop attending. Going the first time is always the most difficult, but most places are very welcoming . good luck!
Everyone grieves in their own way and their own time. Do what feels right for you. It is 19 months now for me and feels like yesterday and I cannot move on but hope to eventually find peace of mind - happinesss went with him.
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