The Value of a Support Group
By Kelly Lamkin, LBSW
When I think of the value of a grief support group, it is difficult to focus on just one thing. I can, however, tell you the two most repetitive values I have observed. One is that attendees realize they are not “crazy,” that what they are feeling and going through is their “new normal.” The second is that they are not alone, realizing there are others that are hurting and grieving too.
No one in a group can say, “I know exactly how you feel.” But they can say, “I understand how it feels to lose someone that you love.” When a grieving person hears that what they are feeling and experiencing is supposed to be happening, there is a look of relief on their faces as they realize that it is okay to feel the way they do. Only a grieving person understands that value. Numerous people have told me, “I can move on now knowing that I am not crazy, even though I may not like it, I can deal with it now.”
The other important value of a support group is realizing that you are not alone; there are others there grieving too and they can relate to how you feel. Being present in a support group, watching those in attendance express themselves, tell their stories and come out of their shell with complete strangers, is the most valuable part of a grief support group. It is not easy to walk through the door and sit around a table sharing your raw emotions. But once a person does that it is remarkable what happens. Their healing begins. I have seen people make friends with others in the group and keep that going even after the group has ended. They have a lifeline that they feel safe reaching out to, someone to share their feelings with and for some a true lasting friendship.
Being able to talk to someone who can truly relate is when you start to heal. And that is the true value of a support group.
To read more from Kelly Lamkin, find her on the Quality of Life blog at www.homehospice.org.