Have You Been Turned Away from a Grief-Support Group?

empty beach_tracks in sand_large rock_oceanBy Judy Brizendine

Someone shared her experience with me this week, and it broke my heart, shocked, and angered me all at the same time.  This person ‘diligently searched’ (her words) for help with grief, and was turned away from grief-support groups by several organizations.

Her situation didn’t fit their specific criteria. They didn’t offer her other alternatives or assistance.  She needed help, but finally gave up trying to find a group.  Private counseling was not an alternative for her.

I understand that certain groups are formed especially to deal with particular kinds of losses.  And every group is not a fit for every person.  But are exceptions ever made when the group doesn’t fit a person’s exact loss and the person needs help?  When the rules are so narrow that someone is barred from joining a group because the time frame of their loss doesn’t exactly fit the group’s guidelines seems especially harsh to me.  The lady who shared her story with me wanted and needed help!  So what if her loss wasn’t recent enough or didn’t fall within the exact time period the group required?  Why would anyone turn away someone who is looking to them for help because of a reason like this?

Anyone who has been through overwhelming loss recognizes the courage it takes to join a group or to ask for help.  Seeking help is a huge step.  And it’s not a step any of us takes lightly.  How discouraging to be turned away.

Grief doesn’t fit into a nice tidy little generic box.  Some people are ready to deal with the loss in their lives more quickly than others.  Sometimes folks take longer to reach that point – but I still pray that they finally get there because the quality of their lives depends on it.  Every person and each situation is different.  Yet it really disturbs me when someone who is genuinely looking for help is turned away.

What’s the answer?  What is your experience?

I’d really appreciate hearing your thoughts.

© 2014 Judy Brizendine

Related information:
List of grief-support groups in Orange County, CA (via Fairhaven Memorial Grief Blog)

Online resources for coping with grief (via mastersincounseling.org)


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4 Responses to “Have You Been Turned Away from a Grief-Support Group?”

  1. April says:

    How sad!! And a glaring sign that we have more work to do. At one point in my life I carried around the grief of “six deaths and a divorce in a year and a half.” I didn’t fit into a lot of the ‘molds’ either but the Grief Group I sought comfort in welcomed and embraced me, my tears, and my pain. I’ve always taken that for granted. After reading this piece, I have another level of gratitude. While I’ll agree there can be comfort in connecting with others with like experiences, there is equal comfort in the simplicity of accepting that grief is universal too. I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s pain. Grief work is some of the hardest work we will ever do, but it’s so worth it. Whatever the loss, we experience pain, sadness, anger, and so much more! Grief is a complicated emotional roller coaster!
    My wish for all of us is that we might find the tools and people who resonate for us! And leave the rest! I hope this very special someone will find a group or online forum to resonate with – or the healing, strength, & courage to create one!!

    • admin says:

      Yes, April, I felt the same way when she told me. It broke my heart that someone who was genuinely looking for help was repeatedly turned away. One group turned her away because her loss didn’t fit into the time frame they set out for the group. Her loss had been too long ago! I couldn’t imagine that being done.

      I’m so very sorry for the losses you’ve been through. Such a great deal to face in such a short time frame. I have difficulty imagining what it’s like to cope with all the losses you’ve experienced, but am glad you found help and support to work your way through. You’ve gained tremendous wisdom through your journey, and I’m sure you are a blessing to all you meet. My experience with loss is also that grief work is some of the hardest work we will ever do, but our lives are worth the cost of the work.

      I hope each of us, too, will find the tools and people we need to face the grief and loss we meet in our lives.

      Thank you for reading the post and taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Bless you,

      • April says:

        Thank you Judy! I truly believe that grief work is difficult and it takes whatever time it – and we – need. Society puts a lot of pressure and restrictions on us as grievers (“You were out for the funeral, you should be over it.” (For me, there was so much leading up to the funeral that grief work wasn’t even a consideration until well after the funeral.) “That was six months ago, why are you still crying.”). I am sad and a little frustrated this special person was rejected because of someone’s determination of time. That said, when I pause a moment, I remember that things like this are a gift too. (Even if incredibly painful in the moment.) I believe this is God or the Universe pointing us in another direction to avoid further heartache or information that doesn’t resonate for, help, serve, or uplift us in our journey.
        Thank you for expressing compassion and empathy for my own journey, Judy. It certainly was difficult, of course. But also a beautiful gift…in life, death, living, compassion, empathy, emotions, and so much more! I get to honor my loved ones every time I earn the privilege or right to witness another person’s pain story.
        Thank you for sharing this special person’s experience so that we might be confidential witnesses and learn from the experience also.
        Blessing to you!

        • admin says:

          Yes, April, grief work is difficult — and it takes whatever time each of us needs. I identify with and agree with all that you’ve written. Gifts are available through the journey, if we will look for and accept them.

          With your attitude and perspective, I’m sure you will continue to be a blessing to countless individuals you meet! I pray that I, too, will be a light to others because of my experiences and what I’ve learned as a result. We are in this life together, and we can learn so much from each other!