It seems a long time ago now, when I first went along to a support meeting for others who had lost a baby child. Just getting to that first meeting took probably a year after my first invitation, but there I was, along with my husband and seven other couples or individuals who all brought with them their own painful stories of loss. It was a pretty difficult evening actually. It was one of the first meetings of its kind for some time and so all the stories were brand new and each one had to be told in full and each one was given all the time they needed for that unfolding process to occur. It did feel good, when it came to our turn to talk about the details that had happened to us a year or so previously when our baby twin daughter died the day she was born. It was somehow healing to hear and share these moments with others. I came home that night feeling like a washed out dish rag. You might think that feeling like this would be a signal that it was something wrong to have done. It was hard work but after each meeting I gradually felt lighter and lighter. It seemed that each time I spoke about what had happened, and heard other people talk about what had happened to them, it got just a little easier each time. This group became a safe place to share my feelings. Everything that was said, stayed within that group. They weren’t family members or friends I had to see in any other context so it felt comfortable to share pain and suffering that I might not feel so happy to share normally.
Perhaps support groups are more prevalent these days because our own families are more distant or our own families many not be large or very accessible so a group like this can offer a safe, non-threatening place to share our emotions and concerns.
A group is not for everyone. We might feel we are private, quiet or independent people who have difficulty in groups, or we might think that a group would not meet our needs. However, at some stage or another, if we find there is no other outlet for our grief that is helpful, we should consider finding a group that we can visit. Groups are all different, some are quite formal and each person gets a chance to talk without interruption and other groups are less formal, with just a discussion over coffee in a relaxed setting. Even in the less formal groups it is important that everyone is heard if they wish to speak and that the needs that people came with are met as best they can be. There should never be any pressure to share though either.
We have tried to find other ways for people to meet others who have walked a similar path. Our magazine, Hearts & Wings is one way we hope which allows people to share with others, read about others but in their own space and time and privacy. So perhaps it might be like a support group in different sort of way? On the local support page of our website there are some more options for groups around NZ to consider including joining up with our very active Facebook group which provides friendly, caring understanding people on a day to day basis.
However we get together, support groups help us to realise we are not crazy, just grieving…