Self Care: Support Groups

August 2, 2016

I was convinced that support groups weren’t for me. I completed my grief counseling and I had the support of a Stephen Minister, a lay caregiver trained through our church. I had all the help I needed, I thought.

But I didn’t realize that something was missing.  I had been referred to a support group via another babyloss mom, but never got up the courage to call and make arrangements to join them. At the time, it was too much effort.

Earlier this year, it was clear that my sons were struggling with their grief more than we realized. There were behavior issues and some major meltdowns. The social workers at school weren’t enough to help them move through their grief. We were referred by the child life specialist from the hospital to Sandcastles, a support group for grieving kids. We applied and were accepted. A few weeks later, we attended our first session.

We had dinner as a group. After our meal, the kids split into age groups and the adults went off into a room together. I thought that we would be spending a lot of time talking about how to help our kids through grief, sharing stories and tips of how to deal with them. I thought our experience was ancillary, and that it was all for the kids. I couldn’t have been more wrong. We all shared our loss stories. Most people there had lost a spouse or a parent. A few revealed that they had lost a child. And suddenly, I felt close–bonded with these people who were hurting just like me. I was, unwittingly, part of a support group. And I left that night feeling so grateful for all of those wounded souls who grieved along with me.

Are you still feeling alone and hurting? Despite seeing a counselor? Despite other coping techniques? Despite the support of family and friends? It may be time for you, too, to find a support group.

I was skeptical at first. And it doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a try. Sometimes it’s not just knowing you’re not alone that helps. To be honest, sometimes, seeing people who appear to be struggling even more than you are can be empowering and reassuring. It’s not that you feel superior to them, it’s just that you realize that you were stronger and more resilient than you thought. It also helps when you can reach out to those who are hurting, too. We heal so much when we are helping other people. Not because we are pushing our own pain aside, but because love is a balm.

When you feel like a failure as a parent, other parents are there to tell you that you’re doing a great job, to remind you of the positive things you shared that made an impact on them, but that you have already forgotten.

So, to care for your self, reach out to a support group if you haven’t yet tried it. You may, like me, be pleasantly surprised. If you don’t know where to start, the best places are your church, the funeral home, the hospital, and your grief counselor–her practice may have group sessions. Your local hospice may also offer a support group. There are also national organizations like The Compassionate Friends and The M.I.S.S. Foundation. If you have none of these resources at your disposal locally, reach out on Facebook or sites like Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope, or even here in our Forum on Still Standing.

Please share your support group experiences! Also, if you have more resources to share, I would love to see them in the comments below.

  • Rachel Kain works in IT to make ends meet, but her real passions are writing, music, food, and yoga. She blogs about motherhood, CHD, child loss, and anything else that interests her at Writers Write. Follow her on Twitter: @rjkain


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