The Grief Club:  My strength and hope

                                                          

I never imagined that I would be a member of this group at age sixty-three. It’s a group no one wants to join, but circumstances, the loss of a loved one, put me into this club. You and I are part of a group of strangers, most of whom we would never have met but now are connected by one simple fact: our wives died, and we are part of this group of men who travel a road called grief.

It’s not a group that comes together for parties or celebrations, but rather, we are united because we share one common fact: we know what pain, sadness, and grief are and how it affects every aspect of our lives. Yes, we are people who share one commonality: grief. Friends and many relatives do not understand us. They try and are sincere in their attempts to help us but have no idea the road we walk or how we feel; and cannot comprehend what we face and deal with all the time.

However, this unique club offers us a very special opportunity to share with strangers who know our feelings. Every member of this club knows grief.  You don’t understand grief until you are initiated in this select group.

There are, however, ways that we, as brothers and sisters united in our pain, can help each other. It’s not difficult, but it does require courage, fortitude, and resolve to move forward. First, we need to share what has happened to us. Our trauma is common, but the path we travel is probably different. We can choose just to listen. At times, that’s fine to hear what others are going through and confronting in their journey, but healing requires telling your story. It’s risky and frightening to some degree, but in a safe, confidential environment surrounded by others who have been down this road, it becomes easier and easier with each meeting.  We need to be willing to share our pain and vulnerability. We need to tell our story.

The value of a Grief Group or a support group is that individuals who have faced loss tell their story, shed their tears, comfort each other, and this is especially important: share ideas and ways they are moving forward in the grief journey.

I run a support group for widowers living in New York State. One man said to me at the end of the meeting one night, “Tom, thanks for helping us.” I was humbled by his words of praise and said, “Thank You.” I don’t feel I am saving lives, but when I tell my story, when I shed my tears and pain and let my emotions out, I am helping another person heal. It’s therapeutic for me, and I hope it can provide hope to others. No one has all the answers for grief. It’s a lifelong process that we learn to deal with and hopefully feel comfortable with grief one day. I cannot eliminate it from my life, so I need to incorporate it as part of my life.  I am simply trying to give back and show gratitude to my wife, who taught me how to live, love, and die.

Some of you have traveled the path longer and are offering me a hand, a shoulder, or an arm so I, too, can move forward. As brothers, we should comfort each other and share our stories. Support groups are designed for participants to share their stories as they heal and help others heal.

Gain the most from your support group, share your story, tell us about your pain, shed your tears; we are the only ones who know what you are going through and can help you and, in the process, help each other. Strangers who would never have met will become brothers forever united as we together walk the path of grief.

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