I got kicked out of my grief support group. During the last meeting, the facilitator told us there was going to be a big influx of new people to the group, though why there would be an influx and how he knew this, he didn’t say. What he did say was that if we were able to function, if we were able to go about our daily activities, we were supposed to leave the group. He also said the group was too social, but isn’t that the purpose of a group? To support each other? We did talk before and after the meeting, but during the meeting, we stuck to the subject — grief — which was why we were all there. It was the only place we could continue sharing our sad tales and talk about what we were feeling. The rest of the world has passed on, leaving us alone with our emptiness and our tears.
In order to break up the group, the facilitator said he was going to cancel meetings for a month so we could evaluate ourselves, and then if we really, really, really needed the group, we could return. This stunned the heck out of me. Because he thought some people had overstayed their welcome, he was going to leave the newly bereft without any support for a month!! With Father’s Day almost here? He finally agreed to cancel only a single meeting, but still, the whole concept is appalling.
Apparently, a group in another town turned into a social gathering, and to change the focus, that group was cancelled for a month. Only two people returned after the meetings resumed, and the facilitators congratulated themselves on a job well done. But no one checked to see why the others didn’t come back. Perhaps, like me, they felt betrayed. A place that was supposed to be safe suddenly became dangerous. Sure, I could go back, but I’d never be able to open up again. I’d always be wondering if I was being judged, if I wasn’t going through grief fast enough to suit the facilitator, if I were depriving some other poor soul of a say, if I were being too social or too articulate. (Apparently, my ability to talk articulately about grief is a drawback. Though why, I don’t know. Just because I can put into words what others feel does not mean I’m not feeling grief myself.)
The facilitator kept saying, “This is hard for me.” He never even looked at the shocked faces of the group participants, just kept saying how hard it was for him. Who cares how hard it was for him? He shouldn’t have said anything in the first place. (I’m not supposed to talk about what goes on in the group, but since I am no longer a participant, I can say what I want. Besides, it was more my group than his. I understood what people were going through. He didn’t. How could he? He still has his spouse. Until you’ve lost a long-time mate, you cannot know, cannot comprehend the vast physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual changes such a death brings to one’s life.)
We were originally told we could keep attending meetings as long as we needed. In fact, Medicare demands that hospice provide bereavement counseling for a minimum of thirteen months. Nowhere in that regulation does it say grievers are prohibited from attending if they could function in the world. Besides, if we couldn’t function, we never would have been able to attend in the first place.
I’d stopped going to the bereavement group for a while, then returned to help support a friend through the worst of her grief, but it’s come full circle and I need the group for me again. I was okay for the first two months after the anniversary of my life mate’s death, but the truth — that he is irrevocably gone — has seeped into the depths of my being, and I am feeling heartbroken. I need to be with those who understand this upsurge in grief. Who don’t mind my tears. Who know that the calendar means nothing when it comes to grief. Who realize that yes, the newly bereft need support, but so do those who are further along.