After the last meeting of our four-week bereavement support group, participants talk in groups of two or three in the parking lot. We said our formal goodbye 30 minutes ago, but they’re still laughing, weeping, and sharing experiences.
The group isn’t finished telling stories and gathering hope. We’re hungry for more and make plans to meet again. I drive away, grateful to know our meetings eased grief and helped participants face unknown futures.
Why do I facilitate bereavement support groups for women who’ve lost spouses or partners, even as I deal with personal grief and hearing loss? I do it because grievers needs a place of safety and protection to speak of the person we love. We need to talk about what we’ve felt and seen, share tears, despair, and hope.
We need a place to be unguarded with our longing and the struggles of life on our own.
I’m reassured about my own grief as I hear these women’s stories. They remind me there is no time limit on mourning and longing for someone you love. They’re between 50 and 90, with recent raw grief or more distance on their loss, and they bravely open their hearts to each other and to me. They trust each other with wounds and memories others cannot bear to hear.
In their trust, my own broken heart opens to give and receive love, to feel the universal suffering that’s part of life and deep connection. We remind each other that we are not alone in grief.
I love the beauty of a heart wide open, a face softened and unwilling to pretend, a soft 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 new wings.
In 2014, a year after writing this blog, my hearing became unreliable and unruly with Meniere’s Disease. With great sadness I stepped back from leading groups while continuing other kinds of volunteer work at Hospicare. Along with giving talks, I’ve been able to continue leading grief rituals. In 2019 with renewed hearing after a cochlear implant, I look forward to new possibilities.
For an article about creating ritual to soothe grief, see How to Create a Sacred Grief Ritual Many Years after a Loss. You may enjoy another article Gifts of the Heart: Volunteering at Hospice. This article was first published in the Hospicare and Palliative Care Services newsletter.