I remember the first Thanksgiving after my father died, my mother sat in the seat that had traditionally been his seat at the dining room table. After saying grace, Mom gently laid her head on the table. Everyone seated at the table was stunned into silence. Time slowed as we tried to wrap our minds around what was happening. Finally, my son, Matthew said, "Grandmother are you okay?" Not moving, Mom said, "Yes". Several minutes later, she stood and left the room. She had only been morning the death of my father for three months and her first Thanksgiving without him in over 50 years was more than she could handle.
My mother was never much of a joiner. She was an introvert who got her energy from her alone time so when my father died, she didn't know how to go about getting support from others. Like Mom, millions of others "go it along" when they lose a loved one. There are groups that can offer support during this time of mourning but sadly many people don't take advantage of their expertise. Maybe they don't know how to reach out or how to find a group. In either case I encourage anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one to reach out for help to one of the groups below, particularly during the holidays.
Here are a few groups who can help:
Hospice: As part of its mandate, hospice organizations offer grief counseling. Professional counselor runs the grief support program. Anyone in the community can take advantage of these services even if hospice wasn't part of your loved one's end of life journey. Some hospice organizations charge a fee for those individuals or families who weren't part of its end of life hospice program while other hospice groups opens its program to everyone in its community. Hospice of the Valley in Arizona offers these services at no cost to its entire community while Suncoast Hospice of Florida charges a fee to community members who didn't use its program. When looking for a group through your local hospice, ask about any fees.
Grief Share: GS is a church based program that is staffed by volunteers. The volunteers are mainly individual who have lost a loved one and have gone through the GS training program. There is no cost for joining the group. GS groups are in the US, UK, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Follow this link to find a local group. Kim Moody is a Grief Share counselor and she shared her story with us here on Footsteps.
The Compassionate Friends: A friends who lost her daughter found help in this group. Their network has more than 650 chapters and has been supporting families after the death of a child for four decades. The is no charge for attending their meetings.
Funeral directors, hospitals and faith communities: As you seek help, these folks may also be a resource. Good funeral directors are plugged in to their communities and are a wealth of information. Most hospitals and faith communities either host grief support groups or know how to help you find one.
The biggest challenge to finding a grief support group is that you need to ask for help during a time of great pain. I encourage you to reach out because these groups and organizations have the expertise to make your journey a bit easier if for no other reason than you won't be alone.