I’m a big believer in DIY activities. I try to figure out a solution to any problem on my own. I search the internet for books to read or videos to watch, anything to help me out so I don’t have to ask for help. This usually works. So when grief became an unwanted house guest, I decided I would read all the books on the steps of grief. I figured I would get through all this “stuff” in six months tops. And then I would get on with my life.
But it didn’t work. I couldn’t “fix” my life or my kids lives. The world was caving in around me. I didn’t know how to move forward. I don’t care how many times I decided which “step” I was on in my grief, but it didn’t matter. Grief came in waves and knocked me down time and time again. I couldn’t help myself and I certainly couldn’t help my son or my daughter. A cousin that works with Houston Hospice suggested grief support. She gave me information on the Houston Hospice Wings program for my kids and for me. I signed us all up to begin just shy of the 3 month anniversary of my husband’s death. My son was relieved that he would be able to talk with others. My daughter was less enthused. I bribed her into going. And honestly, making the first step into support groups was HARD. It meant admitting that I needed help. It meant facing my grief and acknowledging the new normal in our lives. I was nervous and my stomach churned as we walked thru those doors for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect and wasn’t sure that I could begin to open up about my loss. And I cried. A LOT.
And I never regretted my decision to get involved in a support group. For the first time in months, I was surrounded by people who weren’t uncomfortable with tears. They didn’t try to make things better or give me canned answers about my sorrow. They listened and understood. They allowed the tears to fall and sometimes cried with me. We talked about going to the grocery store and seeing Valentine’s candy on the shelves and crying. I discovered I wasn’t the only one that kept a bottle of cologne so I wouldn’t forget. Nightmares and sleepless nights weren’t rare in this room and I was comforted to realize I wasn’t losing my mind. We discussed our grief, our anger, our loneliness, our fear of laughter and of forgetting. In this group, I could talk about the past and how I didn’t know if I wanted a future and they understood. We talked about the practical things like filling out papers, filing for SSN for our kids, the hardships of moving forward in a single world as a single parent of grieving children. We shared our feelings about cremation and burial, about spreading ashes as well as wording on headstones. We asked how long grief would last and what to expect. There were questions on wedding rings and dating and in-laws. There wasn’t a topic that was out-of-bounds.
I realized that grief support groups aren’t there for all the answers. They don’t exist to “fix” things. Grief support groups do just that: they support. It’s a chance to talk to others walking a similar path. They allow the grieving person a safe harbor to just grieve without feeling like a trespasser in the land of fun. I think the best advice I received during the 6 weeks of the Wings program was this: On those days when it seems that it takes every ounce of energy to breathe, then JUST breathe. I needed permission to let my guard down, to stop trying so hard to prove that I was okay. I needed a support group that would allow me to talk, but would also allow me to be silent.
There are a lot of ways to find support in the Houston area. The area hospice programs offer various support groups. Several churches in the area provide Griefshare groups. I will be facilitating a GriefShare group beginning January 26 at 5:00pm. We will be meeting at Westland Baptist Church in Katy, Texas. If you are interested in what Griefshare is all about, go to the website at Griefshare.org. There are lots of resources on the site. If you are in the west Houston/Katy area, you are welcome to join us on Sundays. Don’t be isolated in your grief. There are people who need to hear your story.