Monday, March 3, 2014

In Honor Of The Oscars

In honor of the Oscars last night, I'd like to give out a personal award.

Last night's Academy Awards speeches seemed to me to be particularly emotional, expressing the gratitude of recognition, the fulfillment of dreams and deep thanks for the years of incredible support that people received while working on their ground breaking film projects. 

It brought to mind for me the role that others play in our lives during difficult times and reminded me that support groups around the country are on the front lines of our communities, doing the nitty gritty, down and dirty and painful work of helping us put one foot in front of another as we learn to live with the unexpected challenges that life has brings us.
In my case, I'd like to give out a personal award, The Best  Support Group award to Widowed Persons Outreach (WPO) located at Sibley Hospital in Washington, DC.  The people at Sibley who run this incredible program are the unsung heros of bereavement work and I'd like to draw the curtains aside a bit to reveal that grief support groups are not strange secretive gatherings of people who wallow in their sorrow and loss.
Best Support Group Award
No indeed.  They are groups of compassionate people dealing honestly and directly with the confusion that grief brings.  I spent almost two years as a participating member of the WPO support group and then after leaving the support group I spent many years later as a volunteer trying to give back the unconditional support WPO gave to me.

I learned a tremendous amount from the other widowed members of the group and also the amazing people who ran the group while I was there.  One person I would like to give a shout out to is Julie Potter, a calm and patient woman with so much insight that she reminds me of  a wise Buddha.  WPO taught me how to slowly gather the shattered pieces of myself and figure out how to best to put them back together in a way that gave me worked for me.  The group gave me the strength to help myself and my grieving young son.   
Whether it's alcoholism, gambling, overeating, drug addiction or grief, I believe that others who are traveling the same unpredictable path as ourselves can often offer the greatest amount of inspiration.

It may seem slow and incredibly painful but I found that when you sit and share your story with others facing the same issues, there is a sense of relief that you have finally found people who understand the depth of what you are feeling and how hard it is to handle.  In searching for a way to begin healing, support groups offer a safety zone because you find you are not alone in your emotional turmoil. 
Many people are uncomfortable with the emotional pain of grief.  As a result, family and friends are sometimes unsure of what to say or how to be helpful.  Support groups are the places where we can let it all hang out, revealing the thoughts and feeling we might not want to tell others because they might not get what we are really telling them.
You deserve to talk through your feelings and get them off your chest.  It's all part of starting a healing process.  By letting your emotions come to the surface and then working through them, you acknowledge and face your changed life and find others who are also dealing with the same sorts of issues.
Each grief may be individual but you shouldn't feel that you have to handle it all by yourself.  Support groups can be a crucial first step when you find yourself unsure of how to deal with a personal crisis.

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