“I think the hardest piece for people coming to grief support group is the courage for people to walk through the door,” says Sarah Smith the bereavement coordinator for hospice palliative care.
“You’re at your most vulnerable when you are sharing with a group of strangers and yet when people get there, they realize the power they’re in and the bond they experience… It’s such a fantastic dynamic, magical thing that happens in the course of the six weeks and they come together and after the group is over, usually they support each other afterward.”
The group takes no more than twelve people. Smith says they’ve had up to 17 but it makes it harder for people to share and to build trust. It just doesn’t work out the same, she says.
“We sit in a circle, we introduce ourselves, we set some ground rules on confidentiality. Then we introduce our loved ones into the room, we say their name and maybe what they’re feeling or the hardest part they’re going through right now,” Smith says. “Sometimes people think they just feel like they’re going crazy when in fact it’s actually normal for them to go through a lot of forgetfulness and the exhaustion and the sadness. If you try to skip over it sometimes it comes back years later and manifests itself in a physical way.”
The group is open to men and women. Smith says she has helped a couple hundred people with their grief through the support groups.
“If you can walk through that door you’ll be warmly welcomed and put at ease.”
The next group starts March 28. People interested in participation have to pre-register, which is free, so Smith knows how many people to expect. She also does a quick pre-interview to see if people will be a good fit. She says while pet deaths are significant, they’re only accepting people who have experienced a human loss. The group runs for six consecutive Tuesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Call 250-395-7680 for more information.