finding the best support group for you; part 2

In our last post, we suggested you shop around and then sit in on a support group before you commit to joining.

It’s also a good idea to interview the leader or facilitator of any group and ask the following:

1) What are the qualifications of the leader? Is this a “peer” group, with the leader being someone who is only in charge because he or she has experienced a loss? Or is the leader a mental health professional?

2) How many people are in the group? Ideally, there are between 6 – 10 members. More than that could mean very limited time for each member to share their concerns.

3) What, if any, are the rules regarding confidentiality? This means members agree not to talk about what is said in the group to outsiders or to discuss group issues between themselves when outside the group setting.

4) Is feedback between members kept supportive? It’s the responsibility of the leader to ensure that members comments remain helpful, not critical.

5) Is there a clear policy about dating? Although most widowed groups encourage members to form new friendships with each other, dating between members is usually not a good idea because it interferes with the necessary mourning process. Dating should wait until you’ve left the group.

Feel free to communicate to the leader any concerns you have about your own ability to participate. His or her response should give you some idea of that person’s sensitivity to members’ feelings and group management skills.

When is the right time to leave a group? If you’ve found a group you’re remained in comfortably, you should consider leaving once you no longer feel the need for this type of support. Discuss your decision to leave with the leader, who can ease this transition for you and the others in the group.

Keep in mind that some important benefits of being in a support group are the bonds you create with other widowed people. These often result in supportive, lasting friendships.