Re-reading my first Cry, Laugh Heal post from 2010 for Monday's edition brought all the crazy grieving feelings back to me: exhaustion, numbness, raw emotions, the scary future and sometimes even laughter!
But it also reminded how great my support group was during that time and how it gave me hope and helped me feel that life really would get better even though my husband died. As I met with my small group twice a month, some sessions were upsetting and some were comforting but eventually I felt less alone and stronger about myself and my murky future.
There's a very good reason why they are called support groups: they are set-up to give that extra boost of support needed to help you handle a life crisis and the people in the group have been in your situation.
The philosophy of most support groups is this: we have been there, we know how you feel, and you can lean on us until you feel stronger. Whether it's grief, alcoholism, drug abuse or any other condition where people reach out for help, those who have experienced it are part of the group and lend a helping hand by giving back to those trying to figure out how to deal with their crisis and the more experienced people pass along how life can be lived in a different way.
For me, that was the secret weapon of my support group. The leaders of my group had lost spouses, raised children, and rebuilt their lives. I had no idea how they had done it but I was there hanging on to every word, reading every bit of material and drawing all of the strength that I could from them because I told myself that if they could do it then so could I.
We were bound by our common loss and our discussions, which usually lasted for about two hours, were supportive and healing. People in my group were newly widowed and had the opportunity to talk about all the issues surrounding their spouse's death, things that they didn't feel comfortable discussing with even their family or friends. The getting it out, the expression of emotion truly was a huge help.
I remember at my first meeting I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect. We went around the table and introduced ourselves and I thought I would be fine until it came to telling why we were there. I started to cry and couldn't stop. But it was okay. Everyone was quiet and waited for me. I finally got through my story and when I was finished there was such understanding. It was so reassuring to me!!!!
I could only belong to my support group for two years and while this support group worked me, joining a support group may not be for everyone. Many people prefer the privacy of one-on-one talks and that is wonderful too. I tried one-on-one chats for a few months until I was ready to join my support group. A wonderful and compassionate woman from the support group would regularly call me on the phone and we would talk for about an hour. I can't tell you how helpful it was to have that support! Having someone listen and then having her tell me what she did after her husband died was such a gift. To this day, I treasure those conversations.
You are not alone and you don't need to bear your loss all by yourself. I found my support group at the local hospital but you could also ask your family doctor or a trusted friend.
Please don't be afraid to take the first step. There are lots of helping hands waiting for you!