I was seated on one low chair of 7, around two equally low tables pushed together. A tupperware of crayons and a tissue box acted as a center piece.
As the door opened, in ran Robert*, toothy grinned. He stopped to look around and asked me,
"Where are the others? I need to know who they've lost."
And by this I think he meant, "Where are the other children like me?"
Seven year old Robert is a member of The Good Grief Club at his school.
Along with 4 other students, he had come to tell his story and hear theirs.
And I was facilitating the group.
The Good Grief Club is an incredible program run by Hospice Caring and offered free to any elementary, middle or high school in Montgomery County.
Trained volunteers together with the school counselor, facilitate a 7 week program that allows bereaved children to reminisce about the person who has died and explore their feelings in a safe, nurturing, confidential space.
I marveled at the fact that Robert, within minutes, would have the answer to his profound question. He would discover, he was not alone in grieving the loss of someone beloved and desperately missed.
Four other children were coming to tell their grief stories with him.
Each of their stories stand alone. Many of their feelings from their grief are the same.
Then, I understood at a fundamental level, our basic human need to connect with others like ourselves.
We are unique. Each of us has our own gifts and foibles. Our own likes and dislikes. Our favorite foods and colors. We look different on the outside and we each have our goals, aspirations and simple pleasures.
But when a medical or emotional crisis hits, we want to know there are others who have walked this path before us. We want to know that in many ways we are the same. We need to know, that although we are unique we are not alone.
We want to know that the anger and fear and sadness are normal.
We want to have our story honored and validated and a chance to tell it more than once.
We want to be reassured we have found a safe place where our emotions are understood and respected.
We don't always need and nor can we always find answers to situations that greatly vex us, but we can all benefit from having someone who has had a similar experience, hear our concerns, validate our responses and listen to our questions.
Someone who can hold our tears, fears, disappointments and
frustrations, like precious jewels. As a child or adult, we want someone who can gently examine these feelings with us as we acknowledge them. And bear witness to our pain and uncertainty.
It is often impossible to take away the pain, solve the problem or quicken the journey. And that is not the listener's job.
But this small act of another person's compassionate presence (whether in-person or on-line), as we tell our story, can lift some of the weight off our shoulders.
And that is why support groups are so comforting when we find ourselves in very challenging situations. There, others can tell us a side-effect of a medication is normal, a choice about surgery is valid, a feeling of anger or abandonment is real. There, others are struggling with the same issues, concerns and fears. There, we belong to a group we would never have chosen, but welcomes us anyway.
We are reminded that we are not alone in feeling this way and walking this journey.
And neither is Robert.
Tell me when have you benefited from talking to someone who has had a similar experience. How has that helped you and brought you comfort?
There are many on-line support groups you can join, wherever you are in the world. Please leave me a comment and tell me about a support group you have founded/ found solace in/ would recommend.
Love to you all
* Names and identifying information have been changed to preserve confidentiality.
You may also find comfort in:
Finding Calm After an Emotional Storm: The Power of Validation
Lost For Words? What to Say and Not Say When Someone is Bereaved
First Steps to Bringing Comfort to a Friend in Crisis
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