I started a grief support group last week. I wasn’t ready to start one right after Peter died. It would pain me to even mention his name, let alone share anything about him, me, us. I did what I thought was best for me – avoidance and being alone.During that time, I probably relied too heavily on friends to be my support group. Looking back, I don’t know if I was fair to them. They had no idea how to comfort me, nor should they have understood, yet I placed them in that position. I also had a grief counselor – still seeing her once a week – and she has helped me grow beyond what I thought I could. So, early on, I didn’t feel I needed a grief group, nor how to move with one. I suppose it wasn’t my time, my grief’s time.
Flash forward to January. It was a month where I survived a violent stomach flu, alone in my apartment. After I recovered, I thought then was the time, the time for a grief group. I am a sharer and loved to be shared with. I am a constant student of the Universe, always asking questions, always seeking answers. Much of that part of me laid dormant as my energy was spent just moving in a world I had no clue how to navigate. In January though, I wanted to start living, not just surviving. I wanted to do more, be more, open myself up more. I felt a need to seek out grief groups.
I called a few places around Discovery, the apartment downtown I was held. I called some places around my home. I didn’t want a general grief group. I wanted one that specified in the death of a spouse, a partner, THE PERSON. I narrowed it down to three, one was a general grief group, but I reasoned if I couldn’t get into a specific one, I was ready to take a broader one. I called all three of them. Representatives called me back. One of them I could get into right away. The other two would start the new sessions mid-March. I decided on the right away one The time to start came…and it went, without me in attendance. I guess I wasn’t as ready as I thought. By Mid-March came new found self-determination…and so did COVID. The other two grief support groups were cancelled.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from the sponsor of one of the cancelled groups. He told me they set up a Zoom weekly meeting, and asked if I was still interested. “No,” I thought, “no, because I am farther along, it’s been a minute since March, and I don’t want to slide backward.” “No,” my mind’s thoughts continued, “because this will be boring as I have passed so many of grief’s stages and it’ll look ridiculous for me to be around newly widowed people as I am now in my thirteen month”. I thought all of this, but I pushed out a “yes” anyway. What the hell? After filling out the paperwork, I had my first meeting via Zoom last week.
I can’t tell you much about the group as confidentiality is key and necessary for its success. And, really, I don’t want to. Here’s what I will say, in general. The group is made up of people who know the pain of THEIR PERSON dying. We all have different stories and yet, similar emotions to our stories. We are all brave for being in this group and facing our losses head on. We are. We are a courageous bunch.
Here’s what I will tell you about me in the group. Both meetings I have attended have been difficult. I have entered each one of the meeting with angst, insecurity, and fighting with my “don’t do it”s. I mean really. Who wants to talk about the emptiness, the shock, the reality of being without your person? For that matter, hear stories that resonate similar emotions? Not me. Certainly, not me. But there I have been, for the past two weeks, sharing, listening, learning and crying. It’s been hard. Maybe the hardest steps in my grief.
After the past two meetings, I felt as if I ran a soul-searing marathon which leaves me so utterly depleted I have to take a few minutes to regain my breath. Some of these feelings I had been holding down, and they are using all their force to push back to be released. Even the lessons I am learning about grief have been exhausting to learn. Some of the feelings of others trigger pent up emotions in me, recognition of similar pain in me, and I feel them, really feel for and with them. I’m empathetic anyway so this group stretches that part in me. You may be asking, then why do it? I ask myself the same question as when I start both sessions, and the answer always comes back to “because I have to”. Something in me won’t let me walk away. It’s a part in me that knows running away from the demons grief brings is an exhausting exercise in futility because they will always be nipping at my feet. The only way to slay them, is to face them, head on, whether it’s through my story or in the familiarity in other’s.
I’ve only been in my grief group for two weeks. I have learned some new things, touched on some old feelings, brought in new ones, and given myself mental high fives for having moved past some of my beginning emotions after Peter died. I know, even at almost fourteen months in, I still need to heal some more, and embraced the realization I will never stop grieving. What I’m striving to learn is to live in the grief, seek out how to develop a new norm in this grief which can include happiness. I loved Peter too hard, for too long, to expect a recovery to have any kind of time limit. Plus, it’s my grief, my experience, and I have the right to feel what I feel. Finally, I now understand how I pushed down feelings I was to afraid to face. The last one might be a shocker as this blog and the heart sewn onto my sleeve seems to point to the opposite. Yet, naming your feelings is different from feeling them.
One of our “homework” assignments each week is to say what we are grateful for and our acts of courage for the week. I think I will always be grateful I had to join this group in the first place and will continue to gain courage to remain in it. This time was right the right time for me to become part of a grief group, this time, on my reluctant journey.