As I left the parking lot half an hour after the last meeting of Standing in Our New Lives—a four-week bereavement support group for women who have lost their spouses or partners—group participants spoke quietly outside in the parking lot in groups of two. Four weeks wasn’t quite enough for these women who weren’t finished telling stories, weeping, laughing, and gathering hope. I joyfully drove away knowing our meetings had eased grief and helped women move into their unknown futures.
Why do I facilitate bereavement support groups? Why did I agree to continue with two support groups a year for women who have lost spouses or partners? Because people need a place of safety and protection where they can speak of the person they loved and share tears, despair, and new plans. We need a place to be unguarded with our longing and the struggles of life on our own.
I am reassured about my own continuing grief as I hear these women’s stories and struggles. They remind me there is no time limit on mourning and longing for someone you love. These women, from their fifties to nineties, with recent raw grief or a little more distance on their loss, opened their hearts to each other and to me. They trusted each other with stories and memories that others cannot bear to hear. In their trust, my own broken heart opened to give and receive love, to feel the suffering that is universal in life. These women reminded me that we are not alone and that we are fortunate to have had loving relationships, even if we had to let them go.
There is something inspiring and beautiful in a heart wide open, a face softened and unwilling to pretend, a mouth with no pressure to say, “I’m all right.” I’m grateful to help provide a safe haven where bereaved can speak, listen, and grow.
You may enjoy another article Gifts of the Heart: Volunteering at Hospice. In October, Elaine, a long-time bereavement volunteer and group leader, will facilitate a new four-week series of Standing in Our New Lives: A Bereavement Group for Women Moving Forward After the Death of a Spouse or Partner (recently or a long time ago). The group meets Oct. 8, 15, 22, & 29, 2013, 2:30 – 4:00 P.M. This Hospicare group meets at Lifelong, 119 West Court St., Ithaca, NY. For detailed information, visit the events section of the Hospicare website. To discuss or join the group, contact Elaine at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607 592 4354 or Donna George (email@example.com or 607-272-0212) by October 1. This article was first published in the Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County e-newsletter.