“Birds of a feather flock together,” my grandma always said and I agree. It is so in our social life, so why not extend that philosophy to support and recovery? Like mind people associate their selves with others who think as they do, who hold the same values that they hold and sometimes share the same or similar experiences.
Because people are individuals and individuals grieve differently, I recommend counseling in general and support groups in particular. The stages of grief and what they include has been lightly mentioned in a previous article. The act of grieving, an individual activity where no two people grieve alike, may be obvious in one person and extremely undetectable in another.
That means, “Mrs. Smith is doing just fine after the death of her husband. She is so strong!” while Mrs. Smith go everywhere because she can’t stand to be alone in that empty house. When Mrs. Smith gets pneumonia in July everyone is mystified. No one knew that Mrs. Smith was exhausted and dehydrated. Every night Mrs. Smith went to her empty house, cried so hard until she vomited whatever she ate. Mrs. Smith was a picture of the calm and accepting widow.
That also means Fred, the new accountant who cries every time he is asked or required to work overtime, “is a whiner.” Now it’s tax season and Fred cries…only when he is asked to stay late. Everyone assume Fred is manipulating them because he doesn’t want to do the overtime. Every day, like clockwork, around 6:00 p.m. Fred begins sniffing. He leaves no later than 6:30 every night, mandatory overtime or not. Fred doesn’t want to melt down on the job; Fred was working overtime when his son died.
Both decide to go to the community center’s weekly support group for grievers. Fred and Mrs. Smith may find some consolation in a bereavement group. There each attendee gets a turn at expressing their grief and their story. Thirty people arrive and there are thirty different ends of life stories. Thirty people are allowed to weep without embarrassment, without being scolded for weeping. That is a good thing.
I have co facilitated grief support groups that opened their door to everybody who were grieving and everyone was welcomed. A scripture was read and a prayer for comfort and peace was prayed for those in the room and their families. After the introduction and “tell us why you are here” section, it can get intense. Remember: Anger is a part of grief. It may take several visits for some and only five minutes for others to make an inappropriate statement: “Dam she was 96? Why you crying? My son was only 7! He did not get his life!!!” (Spoken with intense anger). One person making light of another’s pain, older persons not allowing younger grievers to speak are a few things I observed. In a generic bereavement group opened to all, the facilitator and co facilitator have to work extremely hard to maintain equality and fairness for everyone.
What is not good is for the bereaved and grief-stricken is to lean too heavily on their friends and associates. A comment here, a conversation there will be helpful. Outside of a few conversations widely spaced apart, your friends should not be burdened with a constant and consistent out pour of your grief. How do you know if you are crying to a Mrs. Smith? A cool and calm appearance does not guarantee that your confidant is not struggling with their own burden. Besides, they love or respect you too much to stop you.
I recommend the bereaved, the grief-stricken and the sick find a support group that caters to their specific situation. The widow should be in a widow/widower support group, the parent should be in a group that support parents who lost their children, and so forth. That way you are sharing with people who understand your pain, your situation and you understand theirs. There is no one to belittle your tears or minimize your pain to make room for theirs. You are all birds of the same feather.
Here in Chicago and the surrounding area, we have a lot of resources for our support. Advocate Children’s Hospital in Chicago has a strong support network and offer grief support and counseling in many areas or will direct you to where to go to receive help. Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Il offer Cancer support. There are grief counseling and support groups for children only, like Camp Kangaroo, and there are groups for parents that have lost their infant/child and for grandparents (click on Perinatal Support or Grand parents Grieving)too. There is a support group for stroke and spinal cord injury patients. The cancer groups are not lumped together; there is a group for breast cancer survivors, groups for lung cancer, etc.
Obviously the community of Oak Lawn, Illinois understands the value of support services for citizens in general and their citizens in particular as they have a handbook available for the members of their community.
If you are reading this post then you are online; you have some computer savvy. The internet offers privacy and discretion and is a good source for finding an appropriate support group, some online, some via phone and others in person. Chicago offer a few resources for support: One can begin their online search for a group here. Mental Health America has a comprehensive list of support groups.
This is a partial A,B,C list of support here in Chicago:
Alcohol Anonymous-Sobriety Recovery and Support
Al-Anon Family Group Meetings For families of Alcoholics
Autisim Parent Support
American Diabetes Association
Bereaved Parents of the USA
Bereavement Resources: a complete list of resources in the Chicago & suburban area
Violence/Homicide Related Deaths
Online Grief Support Community
Survivors of Suicide
Illinois Suicide Support Group
Veterans in Crisis
My personal website may offer you spiritual support and there are a couple of help lines there.
May someone find something here helpful. Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated. Please fly back and visit again 🙂