One of the most common questions I'm asked when people write to me is "Where can I find a support group near me?" I tried at one point to keep track of national support groups, but it's a daunting task and one I couldn't complete, but what I try to tell people is if they are looking for a local support group, they can ask their local hospitals, churches, funeral homes, and Hospice groups for suggestions. Two websites, GriefShare and GriefNet claim to have support group lists, but I've never used them. You might want to check them out though and see if they can help you.
A good support system, in my opinion, includes a) friends or family you can depend on and b) a support group with others you can relate to. Support groups can also be a combination of online support groups and one you visit in person.
After Jeff died, my children and I started with a private grief therapist. At the time, our local hospice told us that we were 'not ready' for their group yet. You had to be several months into your grief before attending and benefiting from their group. So we used private therapy for a little while until hospice welcomed us. In private therapy, I had to pay a co-pay each time. Private therapy can be pricey, but check with your medical insurance to see how much they will cover for how long.
Hospice had one group for the adults and one for the children. Samantha, who was two at the time of Jeff's death, was too young to attend the group, but by the time she was a well-spoken four-year-old (she was!) they welcomed her into the group too. They even let her stay with the group that her older brother and sister were in instead of putting her in the younger group because she actually understood and it helped that her siblings were there.
We stayed in hospice therapy for three years. The kids drew pictures, talked, played games that related to their grief. I chatted with other adults, mostly my age, who lost either a husband or wife or someone close. They understood. They never told me to remarry. They understood what my kids were going through. It did cost, but it was more affordable than private therapy (although I don't know the fees today). We went two times per month, but you know how it is. The days you feel that you need to talk to someone are NOT the days you have therapy. Figures, right? Well this is where online support comes in. I joined WidowNet early on and this way when I couldn't sleep or needed to talk with someone when everyone else was at work, when I felt that I bothered my friends or family enough, or when I wanted to hear from another widow, I turned to that site. Within a half an hour, sometimes within minutes, I had a response. It really helped. Another great site that helped me was Young Widow as well -- that's a great site too.
When we left hospice, it didn't mean I was 'cured.' We left because I felt that my kids were ready to leave. I started to realize that my children were far into their recovery, but when a new child attended the program, they took steps backwards. They felt that child's grief and took it on as theirs. They were supportive to that child and helped that child to realize that they could get to that point too, but they would cry more after a new child would show up. I realized at that point it wasn't in their best interest to continue. They were ready to move on.
I had a talk with them when we left that they would still have good and bad days, but it was time for us to handle this as a family. To lean on each other and work it through. For brother and sisters to support each other and for us to take time out to talk about things ourselves. I remember when my dad died, my mom sat us down and grabbed our hands and said, "all we have is each other. We need to stay strong." I told my kids the exact same thing. Even though we had friends/family, we needed our family unit to stay strong. I remind them of that all the time -- just yesterday, I told my kids 'we're a team, remember?' and my older daughter started helping my younger daughter fix her bed. Yes, they need occasional reminders. Kids are kids after all, but overall we work through our grief together.
And they still grieve from time to time. When the first father/daughter dance came about, or when my daughter had her homecoming. When my son got irked during a bowl-a-thon when they asked the fathers to come up and try to win something for their kids and he saw all the dads there. We talked about it and he recovered quickly because we support each other. Hey, I'm not perfect. We make mistakes, but we try. And that's all support is -- just keep on trying.
Before I joined Hospice and the online support groups, I did try an in-person support group from my local church but it wasn't for me. It was a general bereavement group and the people were older and didn't 'get' what I was going through. So finding a support system is finding what works for you. Just like online? That's fine. Like to see people? That's good too. As long as it's working; as long as you're benefiting.
Awhile back I had a Yahoo group going where those who signed up for my newsletter could go and chat. I had asked a friend to moderate it, but it was a disaster. I closed it down. I would be interested in starting another one, but the only moderation I'll do is making certain that nothing serious is going on. It would be up to you guys to start chats and I'll be there to chat too. I would still love for you to leave comments here though. It helps because the more comments left, the more 'popular' the site is considered and the more we can help others who stop by.
Leave comments here and let me know if you want a Yahoo support group started by me. I'd love to know what you think.
Until next time, you may be young, but you're not alone.