Bereavement Support Groups: Working out What’s Right for You
If a support group doesn’t work for you, it doesn't mean you are broken
You might have been told that a support group is the best thing for getting through your grief. It’ll make you feel better. It’ll help you meet others who understand… But that’s not always the case.
If a support group doesn’t work for you, you’re not a failure, and you are still grieving ‘properly’. Don’t worry about it.
It's useful at this point to look at why they might not work. You might have gone into it with the notion that you’ll get some kind of guidance and reassurance that everything will be ok, especially early on in your grief journey, only to find that someone who has been attending for years is no further forward than where you think you’re at.
It might feel overwhelming to share your pain in front of strangers. You might be feeling vulnerable and not in a place to hear about others’ experiences.
All grief is unique. You might find a support group turns into some kind of grief-off, where someone else’s loss is deemed far worse than yours (in your mind). That doesn’t mean that your feelings are any less valid.
You may also hear unhelpful terminology or advice about grief, such as ‘they wouldn’t want you to be upset’ or anything that starts with ‘at least…’ which is a quick way to minimise anyone’s feelings of loss! Another gem is ‘it’ll get better in time.’ (Time just passes).
You might feel people are very judgemental, or you might have the ‘show stealer’ - the one who monopolises the entire session, either with their own story - and yes, grievers need to be heard but ALL grievers do, not just one - or they’ll hit you up with a shower of advice of what to do and how to feel.
Remember, it’s not therapy. There is no professional helping you heal. Yes, talking helps, in fact it really helps, and as time passes you may feel you are coping better. However, you may also be stuck in the same hamster wheel of emotional turmoil that caused you to look for support in the first place.
If that happens, it’s okay, it doesn’t mean you are broken. It simply implies you need more of a structure, or programme to help you learn how to address your unresolved feelings, to manage your waves of grief better, and to feel more like yourself again.
Before you think we don’t like support groups, let’s review the positives, because there are plenty of those, too! Investing time in researching the support groups around you, and even committing to one session to ‘try before you buy’ will help you decide if it’s for you or not.
Being in a support group will provide you with a sense of community. You will find you’re not alone and isolated, you’re not going mad, and what you’re feeling is perfectly normal. They will be there for you when a wave of grief hits you and will understand why you’re still getting waves a few years later.
You might hear some useful advice, or meet someone who has been through something similar, who can show you compassion. You might learn a lot about yourself and you can also get a fuzzy warm feeling inside from helping others in their grief journey, too.
Keep in mind a support group is just that, it’s there to support you. If you feel like things aren’t getting any easier, then head to our ‘find an expert’ section, as it might be time to seek professional support.