What is the benefit of a bereavement support group? The answer is simple, and yet multi-layered. The fear of death is said to be behind many of our neuroses, but the fear of being alone may equal or even surpass it. These suggestions are generalized, and it should be noted that everyone grieves in his or her own way. This discussion is simply to provide a perspective.
First, and most obvious, the benefit of being around others is grounding. When one has lost someone dear they frequently report feeling out of balance or unstable and may want and need affiliation. However, at first a person may simply need to be alone for a time to sort things out. This can lead to isolation, which is not helpful for some people. The unfolding of this experience is different for everyone. Some people come to a bereavement support group right away, and others wait years. It is important to test reality and to simply connect with others to hear that what is being experienced is normal.
Second, it is healing and sometimes vital to tell the story. When a significant death occurs, the survivors are frequently left with chaos. Disorganized thoughts, chaotic emotions, questions, and residual guilt are common reactions to the death of a loved one. By telling the story, and by looking around the room and seeing genuine interest and understanding, one is able to begin to sort out the chaos.
Third, from an emotional standpoint, people who attend bereavement support groups get the opportunity to practice being with the loss. In other words, to be with the reality of the loss, if for just the hour and half of the meeting, helps one move toward adjustment and away from an unhealthy reliance on many of the diversions and distractions, such as alcohol, drugs, food, or any of the other multitudes of potential addictions that are at our finger tips. Our culture does not seem to value the necessity of experiencing pain, so we are taught very elaborate ways to avoid it, sometimes at our peril. The opportunity to sit with the loss and the accompanying emotions in a safe and compassionate environment is invaluable.
Fourth, and maybe most importantly, people get a chance to experience the joy and sometimes the miracle of being supportive of another suffering person. It is likely that group participants who have come for a time have received support in very meaningful ways from others. Thus, it is a natural transition to be able to give back to another who may be new to the group. This does not mean giving advice, or being sympathetic; it simply means listening with open ears. It is not often we speak to someone and genuinely feel heard and understood. It feels good, and it is missing in many of our daily interactions. The bereavement support groups provide the opportunity to receive and provide compassion, and occasionally a person who has had these experiences may chose to join our group of hospice volunteers to continue receiving through giving.
For additional information about Bereavement Support Groups offered at Torrance Memorial, call 310-784-3751.