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Altogether Now

Updated: May 22, 2019

Our sessions with the grief counselor have ended. Now what? My husband, daughter and I were barely able to face the world, barely able to get back to our routines. My husband and I are retired, but still, we had our routines. My daughter was back at work. But I felt that I needed more help to get through this awful grief.

Late one night, as I was reading on the couch, I glanced over at the bag that our friend brought when she called on us a week after Lisa's death. I'd forgotten about the list of grief support groups that was included with the bag. But all that was on the list was the locations, date and times that a support group met. A handful of them gave a specific type of group---support group for survivors of a suicide death, loss of a spouse. I laid the list aside until the next morning. I called some of the support groups that met close to my home and finally settled on one that sounded doable.

It took two weeks before I could bring myself to try my selected support group. Neither my husband nor my daughter were interested in going. I suspect that they were not comfortable sharing their emotions in front of others. But I am one who draws energy from interacting with others, so I pressed on.

I was the first person to arrive and the grief support leader greeted me warmly with a gentle voice. There was a coffee pot with coffee brewing and I was invited to sign in and help myself. About 20 chairs were arranged at narrow tables that were in a large U-shaped formation having boxes of Kleenex placed at about every third chair. I sat in a chair that was closer to the back that it was to the front of the grouping. Pretty soon, others began to come in. The leader greeted each one, some by name if she knew them, others, she did as she had welcomed me.

As I learned, the leader began each meeting with a brief inspirational poem or reading that centered around grief. Conversation at the meeting was to be confidential and a person could choose to share or not share with the rest of the group. The leader then asked who would like to begin. We were to start with our name and who we were grieving for, when our loved one had died and if we were new to the group, we could share the circumstances that brought us to the group. If we had been attending for a while, a person was encouraged to share how their week was going. I noticed that the leader did not call on newcomers to the group first, nor did she go around the table in our seating order. She just randomly assessed the individuals and called on them. As the meeting went on, she tapped us newcomers.

The group was a mixture of men, women and young adults. I would say that many of them were my age or older. At that first meeting, I was the only one who had lost a child. Most of them were there because they had lost a spouse. Some of the younger attendees had lost a parent or a boyfriend or girlfriend. Some came every week, others came occasionally or on special "anniversary" dates---date of death, wedding anniversaries, birthday or when they met.

It may not be politically correct, but I felt that the women talked about their frustrations when they tried to do the things that their husbands had previously done---mow the yard on the riding mower, use the snowblower, hang a mirror or change the oil in the car. The men described their problems with trying to cook a meal or eating a meal alone in a restaurant, doing the laundry and mostly how lonely they were because they didn't socialize anymore. Their wife had always done the arrangements to be with others. That's a big generalization, but one that I noticed as time went on at the meetings.

The longer that I attended the meetings, the more I came to realize how therapeutic it can be to talk about my grief experience and my grief bursts. I realized that I was not alone with my feelings. I also came to realize that others were in a world of hurt compared to me. One lady who was single realized that she was the only survivor in her family of origin when her brother died. Several people found themselves in financial trouble.

Overall, the group was always encouraging and supportive of each other. Several people came up after that first meeting to extend their sympathy. And not only did the leader tell me that she hoped that I would be back, but several others from the group did so as well. That was good enough for me! I attended regularly for about 8 months.

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