“Why a Support Group?”

I just experienced a “Griefburst.” “Griefburst” is a term Dr. Alan Wolfelt uses in his book Understanding Your Grief. A “Griefburst” is when a wave of grief washes over you.  Sometimes you can see it coming. Most of the time it’s unexpected. I learned through participating in, and later facilitating, a grief support group to allow the wave to simply wash over me. As long as I let myself feel all the sorrow it brings, the wave will just as rapidly wash away. On the other hand, if I try to ignore it, grief tends to grow and grow and grow, until at last I take time to pay attention.

My current “Griefburst” is related to moving. I’m downsizing and leaving the space I’ve lived in for 20 years. I knew the sadness was there. I’ve just been too busy to pay much attention. Even though I was not caught off guard, I waited long enough that this was a big wave. Thankfully, I’ve learned from support groups how to do some self-care so I was able to ride the wave.

So why a support group? How can a group help when it seems that each of us journeys through life in our own unique way?

There are several benefits to groups. I found an article on the Mayo Clinic website that lists eight benefits and offers suggestions on how to find a group that best fits your needs (see link below). I’m going to focus today on three benefits: Connection, Accountability and Normalizing. These are benefits that I have observed or that group members have shared with me.

When we are going through any of life’s trials and challenges, we can often feel isolated, like we are the only one going through this. It’s amazing the reassurance we feel when we find out we are not the only one facing cancer, or going through a divorce after 20 years of marriage, or recovering from addiction, or dealing with financial stress. No, you are not the only one walking through that valley. One group member puts it this way, “Life is not easy, but God does not expect you to do it alone. I truly believe God is the key to peace in our darkest hours.” MJ.

Knowing there is someone else paying attention to our progress, often gives us the extra motivation to keep striving to achieve our goal, even when everything in us wants to quit. Whether that goal is divorce recovery or healing from a significant loss, having someone else to check in with makes a difference. This is why programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers are so effective. According to one article, “A Consumer Reports survey found that people who went to meetings were more satisfied with the program (Weight Watchers) and lost more weight than people who used only the online tools.”  From https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/weight-watchers-diet   *(accessed 3/21/18)

Dr. Wolfelt is one of the most gentle and informative authors on grief we have found. In his book Understanding Your Grief there is an entire chapter on: “You are not Crazy.  You’re just grieving.” Over the years, I have been amazed at how many times I’ve heard the words, “I thought I was going crazy.  In a culture that values having things tied up in pretty little bows, grief catches us completely off guard. It is not pretty. It does not proceed in predictable stages  In fact, it can feel so sweet one minute with precious memories flooding through our minds  And then, it feels like a tidal wave trying to pull us under in the next moment. By participating in a group, we hear others sharing the twists and turns in their journey and it reminds us that as crazy as our journey may appear, it really is a journey towards healing.

On Care Night, we try to offer a variety of support groups. The topics change routinely depending on requests we receive  It is important to check the Care Ministry page of the church website to find current groups  The one group that does not change is “Hope & Healing.” You can find us meeting at 6:30 almost every Thursday evening. Feel free to drop in and treat yourself to some connection, accountability, and normalizing.

My prayer for you at this time is that, as MJ says, you have discovered that God does not expect you to do your journey alone. May you find your peace and hope in God.

See you next time.

Blessings Always,