Grief Support Group: Should I Stay or Leave?

I will leave when the pain of staying is greater than the pain of leaving.  ~ Unknown

A reader writes: I've been attending a loss of spouse group for a couple months now, and last night was the first time that the whole group came at one time. It was 8 widows, all in various stages of loss. It is held at a time I normally would not be out of the house. Well, last night when I got home, I felt myself over stimulated; not emotional, but just not able to quiet my mind. I find myself worrying about one of the members. She is just two months out and she used the word desperate. She is on an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety meds, and feels they aren't working. It is not my place to say anything, but I am concerned for her.

I also find it hard in a group setting to not to compare your progress. How is something so individualized as grieving helped in a group setting? How long should I give it and how much of a connection should I allow myself with the others in the group? I know it is all up to me. If I left now, I would feel almost like I am deserting the others. There was one of the ladies, she is only 44, and already talking about trying to find love and going out to try and meet someone. I was really kind of upset by it. I still feel so married that the idea of looking for a "replacement" is completely out of the question. I guess it comes down to the reasons why you find a spouse...out of need, out of necessity or because you want someone to walk along with you. Are these normal things to think about after attending a group? Am I maybe not ready? Or perhaps it isn't something that I need?

My response: My dear, there are so many factors that can influence the make-up of a support group, including the skills and experience of the group facilitator as well as the personalities of individual members. You say you've been attending for a couple of months, so it seems to me that by now you would have a fairly good sense of the "flavor" of your group. Every open group is different depending on the composition of its members, too, and who attends at any given time.

I usually suggest that before a person decides if a given group is a good fit, to attend at least three times before deciding whether to stay or to go. If you think you've given this one a good trial and in your heart you don't feel as if it's helping you, then it's certainly okay to leave. You can always try another group if you feel the need.

You ask if this is something you may not need, and only you can decide that ~ but I suggest that you go by how you feel during and afterward. Do you feel heard, supported, understood? Can you identify with other members in the group? Is the facilitator skilled at leading the group?

As for worrying about deserting the others, bear in mind that your first obligation is to yourself, and you owe it to yourself to do what is best for you. People come and go in an open support group, and you're under no obligation to stay.

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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC


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