The short answer is “for some people definitely” and “for most people probably, if they can find the personal resources to make that first contact”!
Our experience in running bereavement support groups for The Compassionate Friends, Lifeline and other groups, over 20+ years, indicates that almost all who find the courage to attend that first meeting gain very considerably from their interactions with those who have experienced similar losses.
A very small few find the experience of hearing other peoples’ stories too overwhelming and do not return to the group. However, we have found that many of these do return (months or years) later, or (commonly) these people will make a one-to-one contact with someone from the support group and gain support that way. Or they will seek out a professional.
Again we emphasise that our experience in working with the bereaved over three decades, is that most people find good basic support from their family and friends following a serious loss. However, our experience has also indicated that the movement towards a comfortable integration of the loss into a “new” self and life can occur faster and be more rounded if carefully chosen (competent, knowledgeable and caring) extra support is sought out, to either supplement the support from family and friends, or compensate for the perceived or real lack of this support.
And good peer or mutual help support groups is one very powerful avenue – with one very important proviso. That the leadership of such a support group is caring, competent and knowledgeable (that is, that the support group is run by someone who understands the grief process and the dynamics of group management).
This emphasis on a need for caring and well trained leadership of support groups is absolutely vital, and needs to be carefully checked out, because those who attend such groups are so vulnerable, although this ‘sussing out’ of knowledge and competency applies to ALL avenues of help, including when choosing professionals such as psychologists, social workers, and counsellors generally.
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