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.


are support groups the right step for you?

A widowed support group can be a wonderful place to meet others who are in the same boat and experiencing feelings similar to yours. Through listening to others you can feel less alone. A support group is also a safe place to talk about those things that would feel like a burden if shared with family or friends.

You may, however, be hesitant to join a group. Like many people, you may be wondering:

How can I listen to other people’s problems when I have enough of my own?

I’m not sure I can talk about such personal feelings in front of strangers.

Won’t everyone be crying all the time?

What if I break down and start crying in front of everyone?

Keep in mind the following:

1) After hearing others share their experiences, you’ll probably become more comfortable talking about your own.

2) Any well-run group observes confidentiality rules that ask all members not to reveal what is said in the group to outsiders. If this is not the case, be sure to suggest it.

3) As hard as it is to believe, there are usually more moments of mutual laughter than tears in a widowed group.

4) Many people are either embarrassed if they cry or worry about how it will look if they don’t. Once you’ve had time to get comfortable in a group, you’ll be reassured by the understanding and compassion of other group members.

It’s important to hold off joining a support group until you’re able to share and listen to others without becoming too distressed or overwhelmed.

In our next post, we’ll look at how to select a support group that’s right for you.