I hear you crying in your bed, feeling alone and doubting if anyone has ever felt as awful as you feel now. I see you observing other mothers, unsure if you fit in. I see you watching the clock at home, thinking that if you left now, you’d still have time to attend the gathering that night. I hear you idling in your car outside the building where the support group is meeting, deliberating if you have the energy to walk in. I see you waiting in the hallway outside the room, wondering if you should go in.
I have been in your shoes. I know how much courage it takes to walk through those doors, let alone open your heart and share your most precious memories in a group of strangers. I assure you, we are friends. As soon as I walked through those doors for the first time, I felt that these people would “get it.”
Related: Self Care: Support Groups
For many people, finding local peer support is a crucial step towards healing.
Here are ten reasons to attend a local child loss peer support group
- Your baby’s story. Not everyone wants to hear the details of your baby… but we do. Your story deserves to be told. Month after month, we want to hear about your baby. We want to hear how you chose the name, how you planned to decorate the room, and how hard it is to walk by that room every day since your baby died.
- Permission. We give you permission to talk about the hard things, to get them off your chest. Sometimes simply by lending a voice to a difficult subject, we can free ourselves from the circling thoughts in our heads.
- Empathy. No one knows what it is like to lose a baby unless they have been there themselves. We have all experienced the unintentional hurtful things people have said. Having empathetic ears to listen can help you feel less alone. Even if you say nothing at all, we will understand.
- Normalcy. It can be hard to feel normal after experiencing the unimaginable death of a child and going through such deep, painful grief. We have been there, and if not in your shoes, in shoes similar enough to offer our compassion. Grief is hard, and we are here to tell you that your grief is normal.
- Connection. So many parents grieving the death of a baby seek to find someone who has a similar story. It’s isolating grieving the death of your child alone. Peer connection can help you feel less alone. It may also lead to new friendships that begin at a deep level, one where the connection is through the heart.
- Acceptance. As soon as you walk through those doors, you will be known as ___’s parents. You are all you need to be right now, and we will tell you that as many times as you need to hear it.
- Healthy coping. We can help you find tools to add to your coping toolbox, like brainstorming ideas for big holidays and upcoming milestones, because we have been there too.
- Partner Communication. It’s easy to jump to judgment on the silent griever. If your partner has been very quiet or hard to read, going to a support group may help. Not only will your partner hear others speak about their grief, but it might also give them the words needed to express their grief.
- Try it twice. The first time you attend a support group there is a lot to take in. There may be many preconceived notions swirling in your head. For many people, it’s not until the second time they attend that they can start to determine if it is truly helpful in their grief.
- Hope and Healing. Healing takes a lot of grief work and, sometimes, a lot of time. We trust your journey will take you where you need to go. We will help you understand that the deep grief you are going through won’t last forever and that you will find hope again.
Other Support Group Tips
A support group should be supportive, non-judgmental, non-religious (unless it specifically states otherwise), and confidential. Above all else, it should be a safe place to talk about your baby. The group should support your journey. Otherwise, find one that will.
If you have reservations, reach out to the coordinator or facilitator ahead of time to learn about the format and get a feel for the environment.
If you do not have a local in-person support group to attend, you can form one. The book “Creating and Sustaining Community Among Bereaved Parents” by Carol McMurrich offers some invaluable advice. It is available through Empty Arms Bereavement Support, Inc. (firstname.lastname@example.org). On the other hand, if you aren’t interested in forming a support group, look to social media to connect with others. The above ten reasons are also true for online support groups.
Related: The Gift Of Connection
Support groups are not for everyone; some people need to process their loss in other ways. As with so many other things after we lose our babies, we don’t know what we need until we try it. I urge you to find a support group near you.
My support group helped me through my darkest times, and it may help you, too.
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