Sharing the journey: grief shared helps dilute it’s intensity and helps us with our healing. Telling your story is important:
This is why we have support groups! One of the most valuable things I experienced in the early part of my grief journey was coming to support group meetings and both listening to other people tell their grief stories and being able to tell my own.
Having people at different places along the way, a few months or even a few years into the process gave me ideas, things to think about and new ways to understand what was happening to me. Almost the most important part, it let me know I wasn’t alone and that sharing my grief would help to dilute it over time and that what was happening to me wasn’t unique. If people have been surviving grief and sharing their journeys for as long as there has been people and grief, then I could (and would) survive as well.
This was written about loneliness in an article in the AARP magazine but I believe it applies to grief as well. “ We all need witnesses to our lives and people to look after.” “…People are looking for (similar) core values and shared life experiences.” (Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo, loneliness researcher.)
Becoming each others “Friends in Grief” :
This may well be one of the most important parts of what being together in a support group environment can do. It may not be obvious, especially early in our journeys, but as we listen and share our grief stories and the pain and sadness we feel, we are learning about each other and building strong bases on which friendships can develop as we help each other to work through our grief and as we build the foundations upon which our new lives will rest.
When we meet new people, we spend quite a lot of time getting to know them. Our relationships tend to build slowly over time in small bits of shared information, in finding commonalities, in learning likes and dislikes and at some level an almost intuitive resonance that keeps us coming back and learning more. At some point we have enough shared experiences that our relationship becomes a friendship and if both people are willing to give and take in relatively equal amounts, that friendship can grow and expand through our lives.
The key difference here is the time it takes to build a friendship. it isn’t quick and it slowly evolves as we get to know someone, sometimes over years.
In our grieving, if we become part of a support group of any sort, we tend to learn a lot about people in their most vulnerable places in a pretty short time. When we get together to share our grief stories we often tell the group very personal and intense feelings and things about ourselves that we would ordinarily not do until we know someone for a very long time. Often we share things we might never have shared with anyone in other circumstances. Because of this almost artificial speeding up of the information transfer, we are able to bridge the gap from stranger to friend much more quickly. Instead of looking for commonality we know we have one very important thing in common, we all share a bereavement and the results of that bereavement on our lives. We immediately understand that about each other in ways that others who have not experienced grief of this type can probably never understand.
So what we have done in the community of bereaved spouses that I interact with in northern Colorado is to build friendships and bonds in a relatively short time. As time goes by and past friends and relationships change because of our changed lives, these new “friends in grief” are becoming the core of the people we journey forward with. Our social lives, our conversations, our interactions are all building out of these friendships and we will always have that basic commonality of “I get it. I know how you are feeling” that creates a comfort and familiarity no matter our backgrounds or beliefs. We all are widows or widowers and we can all help each other in the process of hope and healing. And we are becoming friends!
Crying and Hugging are OK:
We are all often brought to tears by the intensity of our emotions. We all need to feel free to express those emotions and cry when and where we need to. One of the things our group of fellow travelers offers us when we meet is a safe place to cry where everyone knows why we cry and that we can’t really control it and that we need to do it. And hugs are a way of saying thanks to each other for the sharing and the help and the dilution of our pain by it’s sharing. Virtual hugs are not as good but for now, it’s what we have. Connect with others who share this journey and let’s let each other know we are there to help in what ever way we can be. And I sincerely hope that when our current crisis of social distancing is over, we can remember to hug again, that we can overcome our fears and reach out for the very important comfort of physical touch, ie. HUGS..
Getting other help:
Please seek out professional counseling if dealing with your grief begins to seem too overwhelming. Many of us were care-givers in some way during our lives, let someone now help you in your need as you may have helped others in theirs.