I started attending a Group Grief therapy session last week. It is 8 weeks long. In this group are all different ages (although all are adults in this session) and genders of people who have lost spouses, children, parents, siblings. I found the session very difficult to get through and very depressing. One woman who lost her husband this May, was there for her 2nd 8 week session. I visited a Therapist a few days ago. She herself lost her husband 2 years ago. She said she is not a fan of group grief sessions. She said they can actually do more harm than good by delaying the healing process. The therapist asked me how I felt after the group session and I told her honestly it was very depressing. I also talked to a friend of mine that lives across the county. Her husband died in an auto accident 16 years ago. She said she used a good therapist to help her get past the pain, but never any group grief sessions.
I attended one focused on the process of working through losses in general although everyone there had lost a spouse (except one 30-is woman who was there with her mother, who'd lost her ex-husband). Mostly I was there because I'm doing so darn well I keep wondering what the heck is the matter with me. (It's been 9 months and I haven't crashed and burned yet so maybe the answer is "nothing".) What I found is that we're all different, of course- I'm in a different situation than someone in their 80s who lost a spouse that they married when he was 18 and she was 15, which was the case for one man in my group. I think it did help me sort through some of the things which compound grief that weren't part of my situation- my husband was 78, it was anticipated, we had no unresolved issues, I had no financial worries, no dysfunctional relatives, etc.
Individual therapy might be more effective (I've been through it a few times in my life when I needed a mid-course correction) but for a lot of people it's expensive and it may be hit or miss to find the right therapist. One woman posted here a few months ago about a "therapist" whose first session did nothing but make things much worse and who sent an exorbitant bill- in the thousands.
The Therapist I just visited was my second one. I fired the first one after the first session. In fact, I nearly walked out during the session. She said nothing but the usual cliche's that I can read online or hear from others. She also insulted the fact that my late husband and I are both atheists. I consider that very unprofessional.
I have had both positive and negative experiences with grief group support groups. Recently I have had two very negative experiences with the grief support group I have re-joined after two years. Some of the people there had just recently lost their loved ones. Their pain was so raw and my feelings of empathy was so strong, that it was like ripping open an old would and this proved to be very painful for me. I left feeling worse. Then last week I felt very much misunderstood and under attack while expressing my grief and was desperate to get out of the meeting as fast as possible. In my view, if you are in a grief support group that is causing you to feel more pain and worse than before, get out and find help elsewhere.
Go with your gut.
I did not do well in group sessions (similar to what you described), but did well enough in one-on-one sessions with a therapist. (If you are employed, talk with your HR Dept. and see if such sessions might be covered by company insurance.)
Here's my take on group grief support.
Like you, I have a good mental health professional that I meet with one-on-one. I too, tried grief group. I met with an ongoing (not the structured 8-week coursework type ) group . It was bi-monthly grief support/ sharing and I attended for about four or five sessions. All adults. I was encouraged to try it at a the suggestion of my 12-Step oriented close friend, who draws much strength from addiction recovery group sharing.
Grief group was just not a good fit for me. I decided to pass.
I did not feel ongoing exploration of our losses did much for healing. It was like reopening the wound every session, plus my loss felt too PERSONAL. for "outsider" scrutiny. Yes, I appreciate that we are not alone in the grief journey and we do draw strength from others who have been on the journey, yet my healing is rather private, when it gets right down to it.
Hope this helps add perspective. - V.
Thanks for the input everyone. I also met with my family doctor yesterday and he also said he does not support grief groups for discussing death. It's more negativity that will work against you. He said the best thing to do is exercise, which releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. The only bad thing is exercise is the last thing on my mind right now. It's all I can do just to get out of bed most mornings.
Get a dog! She's one of the reasons I have to get out of bed and walk 1-2 hours a day. Se wakes me up at 8am to remind me!
I guess I'm surprised that so many feel negatively about Grief Groups. When Susan suddenly passed in her sleep, I fell completely into pieces. I scared the heck out of my children. Both they, and I knew that I needed help. I knew I was up against something that I knew nothing about. My oldest son called back east to his minister and asked what they should do. He suggested that I contact the Heart Light Center in Denver and start attending their meetings. Susan passed in December and I live inside the Colorado Rocky Mountains. It's a two hour drive into Denver in good weather and in the winter the pass I have to go through can be closed and opened, and closed again in just a few hours time. It was three months before I could attend my first meeting. It is not a "class" that lasts 8 weeks or 10 or 12. During the three months that I was struggling through on my own, I learned of WV and joined. At first, I could not bring myself to enter into the Chat Room. Instead I joined the 2012 group and eventually also the Military, and the Suddenly Widowed groups. I read and read, and eventually commented, and later tentatively asked some questions. Finally I felt strong enough to stick my toe into the Chat Room and have made some great friends.
When I finally was able to meet with the group, I sat and listened to them as they discussed the loss of their spouses. They were using nearly all of the words that I was using to describe my feelings, and pain. I knew I'd found a group of folks that were going through what I was and with the same intensity of loss, pain, and feelings. At first, I thought that I'd get (the other side) of the pain and be back to "normal." Then one meeting one of the members said that she'd lost her husband 10 years ago! I very nearly fell out of the chair! I exclaimed Oh God NO!, and cried and cried. Later I learned that we all take different paths, and lengths of time. She kept coming to provide support for us newcomers. To tell them and reassure them, that with time it gets "softer." They meet twice a month on the second and fourth Wednesday. The first Wednesday if especially for the new folks, and the fourth Wednesday is for folks who are "further out." However, in many cases the folks attend all the meetings. Talking about our journeys and about our spouses, helps us grow and move through the pain. The more we can speak about our loss and our love, with more and more feelings, and in more detail, the easier it gets and soon, we are including the fun times, the special times, and laughing at special times in our marriages. I've found that eventually it does get softer and instead of concentrating on the loss, I concentrate on the good times.
I don't know what would have happened to me were it not for the folks at WV and the Grief Group. Each has filled a niche, and helped me reach the point where I am today. Some times the group counts off, 1 through 3 or 4 and the 1's all sit together, as do the 2's etc. This mixes folks with various times and allows the newer folks to ask questions of those who are further out. They get to vent, cry, and ask questions, and receive an attentive listening small group, and reassurance. Other times we group up by how many years out we are, and in those meetings we can ask each other about what, if anything might be worrying or wondering about. It's amazing how much we all have in common and are going through at somewhat similar times in our journeys.
We all learn in different ways. Some by reading, others by listening, others by doing or some combination of them. I suspect it is the same with our own journey. Some enjoy the support and camaraderie of the group, and others the one on one with a professional.
I, prefer the group and its support. Perhaps I lucked out and found the right group on the first attempt.