The Healing Power of a Group

by Tom Peytom

Recently I met with an old friend I worked with many years ago at a diner near my home for dinner. We were both excited since I had not seen him in about five years. During our dinner, he asked the question that so many friends and acquaintances often pose to me; and I am sure each of you has encountered this question; “How are you doing?

It’s the question those who have not lost a spouse or a loved one often pose out of sincerity and concern, and I think often hoping they don’t upset us, cause us to cry or make us angry. I answered by saying there are strategies I had to develop to move forward in my life.

My friend thought I would give the perfunctory “I am ok, doing as well as I can.” I wanted him to know that I have a plan and am actively working to heal.

I explained how I meet with a grief counselor once a week for over 22 months since I knew my wife was in the final stages of her life.  I explained how he had been a source of comfort.  His wisdom has enabled me to make progress in my life as a Widower.

Secondly, I am part of the Widowers Support Network- Members Only (WSN-MO) Facebook page, and it is the best resource for Widowers on the planet! I explained how I could reach out with questions at any time, and 30 or more brothers will offer suggestions on any topic we as Widowers may face. I also told him about my group of 7 brothers, all members of the WSN-MO Facebook page who meet monthly on Zoom to support each other and provide solace and strength as we walk this journey.

I then told him about extensions of the WSN-MO groups, formed in various parts of the country and the world. One such group of brothers is in Texas who meet regularly for dinner and share their support for each other.

He gave me an apoplectic look and said, “Wow, I thought you would say ok, and we would talk about something else.” I told how I had discovered grief-centered groups could accelerate the healing needed when needing to move forward.  Grief-centered groups can help those of us who have suffered the loss of our spouses by giving us strength and hope and helping us find meaning and purpose in our new lives.

As Herb Knoll, our founder, has told us, “Men are fixers.” They see a problem: examine it and then fix it. Grief cannot be fixed as easily as a flat tire or a broken hinge on a door. Grief is a journey we the bereaved travel. It requires us to share experiences with those newly widowed and those who continue to navigate the roads and provide insights for all of us along the way.

We never tell each other what to do; we offer suggestions on how to deal with various issues. What’s most important about the group is that I can share with men who know exactly how I feel.  We also share laughs and fond memories of our late spouses. Our goal is to be a listening board for each other. We each know we cannot share our feelings with others who do not understand how we feel.

I now have the honor and am humbled to lead another group for my brothers in New York and Vermont.  About two months ago, 5 of us met in Upstate New York with Herb Knoll, our founder, and shared our stories.  We decided to continue once a month to support each other through a Zoom Meeting. These meetings play a vital role, I believe, in the healing process. There is no other place where men who suffered the loss of a spouse can share their feelings, worries, concerns, and memories that only our brothers understand.

Brothers, I encourage you to find your support network. Maybe it’s a church group or a Zoom meeting group through WSN-MO or a local hospice grief support group or Greif Share that has any chapters throughout the United States and other parts of the world. It’s the only safe haven where we can experience with others the pain and sadness that will one day lead to gratitude and joy.

As always, strength to you, my brothers.

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