Thursday, March 28, 2013

Seeking Support

Having spent almost two years going to group grief counseling sessions, I am a big believer in talking about the issues you need help with.

Whether it's grief, drug or alcohol addiction, weight issues or marriage problems, talking can help because you are taking your issues out of the dark and shining light on them for everyone to see.  You're not hiding your issues and acting as though everything is okay and being handled well. 

The idea of being part of a support group can seem very intimidating. It was not an easy decision for me: in talking about my pain, it was almost as though I was reliving it. But I was sick of the pain and it wasn't going away. I don't think I thought about what would happen when I began to talk about my emotional, painful and raw emotions to a group of strangers. You are opening up your heart, making yourself vulnerable and saying "I am so messed up right now. Please listen and support me."

I was really nervous when I went by myself to my first counseling session, totally unsure of what was going to happen.  But I think I am speaking for myself and definitely others when I say that it usually takes you a long time to decide that you need to go and receive counseling in the first place, so by the time you finally find a person or place that you trust and feel comfortable with, you are ready to participate.  I would have stayed in the group longer but one of the rules of the group was that you could only belong for two years.
In a surprising way, I found it freeing to be with other people who have experienced loss and listen to their stories and talk about feelings, thoughts, actions or regrets that were on the top of our minds.  There was a lot I didn't have to explain when I was talking about my loss.  I looked into the eyes of others in the group and could see that most people understood exactly what I was talking about and might have also felt it for themselves at some point.   We were there to get better and we were there because we know we needed help and guidance to get back to a place in our lives where it didn't hurt so much.

My first session was about two hours and there were about 12 people.  Two people who are trained therapists led the group's discussions and offered topics for us to think about from week to week. 

We started by introducing ourselves and giving a little bit of information as to why we were there in the counseling session.  When it was my turn, I started to introduce myself and my story and then I started to cry.  It was unexpected for I really thought I would be okay and could at least get through an introduction.  But no luck.  The group gave me the best response:  silence, a box of tissues and as much time as I need to get myself under control and let me speak about myself.
This may sound obvious but you can't go to individual or group counseling if you don't think you have a problem or if you think that counseling is shameful or humiliating.

Support groups can work well because each person is experiencing the same difficulty in their life even though each person may be handling it differently.  For me, it took away some of the feelings of aloneness and isolation. 

But the real work of group counseling happens between sessions when you are out in the real world and trying to use your new information to bring about change.  The group can guide you and give you support but ultimately it's up to you to figure out how to make it work.  Just like many things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.

Whether it's group counseling or one-on-one couseling, either way I hope you find an outlet for your pain.  Congratulations for being willing to take the important step of reaching out to others for support.

Best of luck to all!!


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