I lost my mother. Will there be others who are mourning the death of their mother?

Each group is unique and has members who have experienced different losses. However, what each member has in common is that they have had a loss. My experience as a group leader is that it is impossible to predict what commonalty members will have with one another. For example, a man who lost his mother was having difficulty cleaning out his mother's closet, especially giving away her beautiful suits. His mother was very meticulous and kept her suits pressed, and even though some were over 40 years old they were in perfect condition. The man was apologetic to the group and said he knew other members probably thought he was foolish for not cleaning out his mother's closet. A man in the group who was widowed said he did not find the man's reaction foolish since he was also unable to clean out his wife's closet and was especially attached to her business suits. The two men of different ages and losses had a moment where each felt understood by the other and not alone in their grief.

I am a widow and want to meet other widowers. Is this the best group for me?

Since this is a general bereavement group where members have had different losses, there may be another member who is also a widow or widower but this is not a group for widows or widowers exclusively. The group provides a place to mourn. The group does not necessarily provide a widow or widower with a social network of other widow or widowers to go on vacation with or to date. The purpose of this group is not to provide social contacts. It is more therapeutic in content. Thus it depends on what you are looking for. The group provides a place to mourn and grieve with others who understand the pain of a loss.

I am a… (Christian, a Baptist, a Jew, a Hindi, a Catholic, etc…) Is this group run under the auspices of a religious institution or framework?

No, this group is non-denominational. Members of all religions and ethnic backgrounds have found comfort in the presence of others that may be of different faiths and belief systems. Often members reflect on their religious or spiritual beliefs in the group, which can lead to a discussion about which rituals and beliefs offer them comfort and which customs have disappointed them. The group provides a safe framework in which to explore questions of faith and belief systems around death which one might not be comfortable exploring in church or with clergy. At times members are inspired or led back to their faith by another member who shares with the group how they find comfort within their belief system.

I just broke up/divorced/ended my relationship and it feels like a death. It is bringing up other losses that I never mourned. Can I join the group?

Yes, providing you desire a vehicle to process the grief that the break-up is stirring up inside due to the deaths you have experienced. This group would not be an approriate place to discuss and process the loss of the break-up. The purpose of the group is to deal with losses due to death.

I lost my pet of 15 years, who was like a human to me. Can I join this group?

No, this group would not be approiate for members mourning the loss of their pet. While it is acknowledged that the loss of a special pet is very painful, this group is not the proper vehicle in which to mourn that loss. Your local veterinarian may be able to refer you to a bereavement group for pet owners. Additionally, I would be happy to provide private individual consultation for those mourning the loss of a dear pet.

My loss was due to suicide. Is this group right for me?

The focus of this group is on loss and mourning. Often those who have experienced a suicide feel shame about the loss. The group can help sort out those feelings, because often other members feel a sense of shame about not doing enough for their deceased loved one. For some members their loved one might have died from a disease that carries a social stigma: lung cancer due to smoking, liver failure due to alcoholism, or AIDS. Each loss is unique and has its own set of circumstances. Each member would get time within the group to share and explore their story of loss.

What the group would not provide is a way of understanding suicide specifically. Often in a group members ask the question"why me?" The group could only help the member who asks that question in a general way.

Is a bereavement group right for me or should I have individual grief counseling?

A bereavement group is the treatment of choice in the case of a loss. It provides a normalization of the experience. Everyone in the group has experienced a loss. This helps every member feel less alone in their pain and discomfort. However, the very fact that everyone is in pain and feeling a loss acutely makes it difficult at times for members to witness that pain. The very dynamic that makes the group work may not be right for you. Ask yourself these self-screening questions:
- Would I be comforted by others also experiencing a loss?
- Would I feel overwhelmed because I myself am in too much pain?
- Can I be there for others who are also in pain and honor their loss?

I lost my sibling/parent/grandparent/significant other many years ago. I am not sure why, but I am crying and upset about the loss now.

Sometimes because of developmental factors (you were a child at the time of loss, you were a self involved teenager, you were pregnant, or had a young child at home, you were away at college, or somehow you were not in a safe place emotionally to mourn or experience difficult feelings), we do not mourn the loss of our loved one at the time of death. The bereavement group provides a safe structured place to look into painful feelings of mourning. For the time it meets the group becomes a structured environment that organizes for you a place and time to mourn.

How much time after the loss should I join a bereavement group?

Each circumstance of death is unique. If the death was anticipated following a long illness, one would say that you had time to prepare for the loss. You have had anticipatory grief. If the death was sudden you may be in a state of shock and not ready to deal with the emotional consequences of the loss. You may need your psychic energy to take care of mundane details and organize all your paperwork. Either way, there are no rules. You should feel free to make your own self-assessment. Only you can make the decision about when you feel ready to join a bereavement group.

What is the difference between a self-help group, a therapy group and a professionally led bereavement group?

A self-help group is based on the model that everyone in the group shares a common theme. A bereavement group also has that characteristic. However a self-help group does not have a professional leader. It is often led by a member of the group who has had a loss some time ago, not recently. The leader of a self-help group may or may not have had professional training in leading groups. A professionally led bereavement group is led by a licensed mental health clinician who is trained to make assessments on what are normal reactions to grief and what requires further intervention.

A therapy group's focus is not on bereavement. Members may speak about any topic they wish. In a bereavement group the leader makes the demand that the topic of discussion is bereavement and does not let the focus stray. For example, in a group therapy session members often discuss group process, while in a bereavement group this is not thought to be helpful to members' journeys in grief. Also, a self-help group may go on indefinitely. For some this is not a good dynamic because it encourages participants to get lost in their grief. People may attend a self-help group for many years, while a bereavement group is time limited and members are encouraged not to focus just on their grief but to involve themselves in their lives.

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