Strength in numbers
Sometimes, the opportunity to share our thoughts and emotions in an environment with others who are in a similar situation can provide comfort.
Below, people share about environments that connected them with counselors and/or other grievers and helped them feel heard in the midst of their grief.
We visited her grave pretty much every year, sometimes several times a year. In Alabama, we would make the time to drive there. Um, but we definitely could talk about it.
Some times, some days were harder than others, but I think the grief counseling helped us open, be more open about it and have an idea of what to discuss.
So, yeah, we were able to talk about it.
I know other people’s going through similar stuff than I’m going through, and you can talk about it, what you’re going through, and see other people respected on how they go through what they go through. So I think it’s been a big help by me going there.
I’m like a laid back person, shy. At first, I wasn’t going to go, but then something said, “You need to go to see what it’s about.”
I’m glad I did. Even during the first time I went to the session, I didn’t say too much at all, and that’s fine. You can expect the people going to be on the same level you are, might not be the same exact thing, everybody grieves differently, but you in a place where everybody speak the same language, and I think that really can help you.
I signed up for a one month write your grief course uh about 3 months after my mom died and I took the course multiple times. Um after that uh each time I took the course, I sort of dealt with different aspects of my grief. Refuge In Grief is an organization developed by Megan Devine um that deals with normalize, normalizing the grieving process by saying, you know it’s okay not to be okay. And that whatever you’re feeling is what you’re feeling and that’s okay. And that there is no set process, no set steps, no set timeline to the grieving process. That you know, your words um matter. And I think, actually having somebody say that is, is very important.
A major part of Refuge In Grief is the write your grief course and it’s a one month course where you getting writing prompts and you can share them online with other grievers, or you can just write it for yourself. I was actually part of the very first writing group, and that was amazingly helpful to me, because I couldn’t ... I was having such a difficult time verbally expressing things. So actually being able to just write things down, um in a journal, post them in the private group and just have people say, yeah that’s, that sucks and this is what it is was actually um ... I found that really helpful.
It’s not to say I did it perfectly, it still took like you know a year, two years before I was like okay I think I’m kind of on the right track now, but ... So it’s still you know it still takes a really long time, but I felt like okay I’m starting to figure out how I can express myself.
I did one of those text message therapy things, and you can just, you know, three o’clock in the morning, you just text everything out. And the people do have office hours, but just knowing that somebody would get back to me within 24 hours and I could send out all of the information at two, three o’clock in the morning was actually a really sort of nice mental relief from that. So those were two things that kind of helped a little bit early on.
Bo’s Place is a group where you can talk about your feelings and you don’t have to feel scared or anything because no-one’s going to tell anyone else about that. So you can feel safe, and secure, and you’ll know that no-one else is going to talk about it outside of the room.
We check in, and we say our names and who passed away, just in case if there’s anyone new in our group. And then we talk about it, and we do an activity, circling around either if there’s a holiday near, and we talk about grief. And the counselors there ask questions, and everyone there is really nice.
We draw on quilt squares there, and they put it up, and it, you can write “In Loving Memory Of” whoever or anything related to your loved one, and that’s my favorite activity there.
The compassionate friends have got really good Facebook groups. Where you can go I think they’re up to about twenty something almost thirty groups for all types of losses. So no matter what loss you’ve experienced you can go there and find people who know what you’ve gone through.
And the other thing about that is even though its not like you’re sitting across for me, it’s not instant, you can post up there. I’m in a men’s group with about nine hundred other bereaved dads and I can post there “I’ve had a really terrible day today, I saw this girl in Starbucks with a headband just like Lily’s and it really upset me,” and then two or three other dads will just after ten minutes someones going to write “I’m sorry Ron, that happened to me yesterday as well.”
I’m thankful for the center for grieving children, because no one really close to him has had that same experience. I was glad that the center was able to bring him with other kids who were also having these same feelings, so he didn’t feel like he was alone in it all.
Camp Erin is a group that I went to for two to three years. And it’s just been very helpful for me.
It’s like a camp for grieving children. Some of the stuff that we do, well, it’s like this boat, like, and it makes like a star, like, uh, what is it called? I don’t remember what it’s called. A shooting star. And there will, like, be bags with, like, lint, uh, lights in them, candles. And it was just go- it would just go around the river, um, maybe like two or three times, take a few moments, and walk back to camp, talk about it.
I looked for other support groups in the area. There were grief support groups for suicide survivors. And I was able to find one that met my needs, you know, finding other families that had gone through similar situations.
But I can tell you that it was never siblings. It was always parents of children who had passed. I never was able to find, you know, just another sister that I could talk to or a brother and it was sad to see that. You know, I’m glad that the parents were there, but again, it wasn’t the connection that I were really looking for.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to T.A.P.S. that I found that there were other siblings who would attend these things. And to just have that connection with another sibling was amazing.
And I remember one of the first meetings that I attended for T.A.P.S. And I walked in. And that day there was another family that walked in. It was a mom and a dad and a brother and a sister. And I hugged a sister. And it was just such an amazing feeling to know that I wasn't alone.
The support of brief encounters. You know, we formed a few friendships there. We did not go often, but I would say that the times that we went were so helpful. It’s, Kate always says it’s a, it’s an unlucky club. It’s a very select, special and unlucky club.
But within that club is a remarkable spectrum. That when you go to the support group and tell your story and listen to other stories. Your brain naturally places you on a spectrum and you tell a story and you see people emote and express support and ask how you got up that day and made it to this meeting. And then you hear their story and you’re asking yourself those questions. That’s the nature of those support groups.
T.A.P.S. stands for Tragedy Assistant Program for Survivors. It’s a nonprofit organization, that has been set up for survivors of veterans or active duty members.
It was thankfully through the TAPS organization that I was able to find a place where I belonged. It’s one of the clubs that you don’t want to belong to, but I’m glad that I am and that I am a part of.
And I think it was through TAPS that it really helped me find my place and to understand that, it wasn’t his fault and that he didn’t mean to leave us behind. It was an illness. The love that you receive from the members who are brothers, sisters, husbands, moms, dads. There’s nothing like it. And I am truly blessed that I was able to find this group.
I feel like in our society, um, you know, you’re supposed to, you’re f- you know, it makes you feel like you’re supposed to be sad for a little bit and then that you need to move on with your life. And I do understand, like, yeah, you do need to move forward, but that doesn’t mean, oh, you’re totally, you know, you’re totally fine now, you don’t need any help, you don’t need any resources.
That’s why I love the Western New York Perinatal Bereavement Network because they, you know, no matter, you know, how long ago your loss was, that the feelings that you’re having, you know, are- they’re true feelings and they should be validated. And, um, also I think that they make it feel like, you know, you’re not alone. There are other people that feel this way.
We went together to the Compassionate Friends, and the very early days - a couple months after Lily died. It was helping me, so I went back, and went back, and went back. So I’ve been kind of doing that work all the time. And I know that’s helped me tremendously. And so to be around other people of experience the same type of loss is uh such a helpful thing to experience.
We were referred to Bo’s Place by a mutual friend. And, uh, we were very grateful for that. I think we were there for about a year and a half or two years. Really made a huge difference about how we handled it. I won’t ... I don’t think we would be how we are today if it wasn’t for that place, at least with our grief.
It was a very healthy experience, and to know that we’re not alone, that we’re not the only ones dealing with that kind of loss. Of course different circumstances, different people, but it felt good not to be alone in that kind of feeling.
We did do volunteering, um, after we were pretty much done with Bo’s Place. But we did do some things while we were there. Um, I participated with, um, making cards with the kids. I helped them make cards for their, uh, loved ones. Christmas cards, holiday cards did help with that. Um, we, uh, volunteered at, uh, at Camp Healing Hearts. Um, I think we passed out food or did minor tasks. But um, yeah, we definitely tried to stay active for when we were, uh, able to. And we're still in contact with those people today.
There has been a lot of things that have been really helpful for me, um, with my grief. Um, the number one is community and support. It’s that human connection to people that understand. So, um ... finding a therapist, a grief therapist, um, really helped. Um ... finding a psychotherapist that specializes in PTSD and loss, huge help. Um ... finding people that understand that you're going through, so that you can talk about grief, and people will get it, um, is huge.
If you're looking for a psychologist or a qualified grief counselor:
Eluna provides an index of grief organizations and grief camps by state.
Evermore provides an interactive search by state directory of grief support centers for families.
COVID Grief Network connects young adults who have lost someone to COVID-19 to free group-based support communities.