In my 15 years as a bereavement counselor—and through my personal experience—I have found that in our society, people are not comfortable with grief. Those who have not experienced it may lack an understanding of what “normal” grieving looks like and just how long this process can take.
Some will expect the bereaved to be “over it” within three to six months. Others may grant a griever a full year, but then expect all to be as it was. The truth is that the timeline for grieving varies and for many, the second year can bring a new set of challenges that are just as daunting.
With that in mind, our Gilchrist Grief Counseling team started a monthly support group for widows and widowers facing their second year after the death of their spouse. The group gives people a safe space to share with others who understand that grief and sadness remain, while also supporting each others’ efforts in making steps forward.
The group began in Howard County, and based on its success, another group was added in Hunt Valley. Each month, anywhere from eight to 15 people gather. As the facilitator of the Howard County group, I will have a topic or activity ready, but often conversation centers around participants’ recent experiences. Topics have ranged from handling special days and holidays the second time around to the idea of “uncoupling” (as one group member calls it), to wondering if anyone else still hasn’t given away their loved one’s clothing.
Group members deal with trying to figure out the “what next” in their lives as they continue to grieve for and miss their husbands and wives. While given the freedom to discuss and lament their struggles, group members are also very encouraging as their peers talk about new friendships, activities and opportunities. I have seen such community and camaraderie between the participants. Conversation flows easily as feelings and ideas are shared.
I asked my group the other night if they would be willing to share their thoughts on what this group has meant to them. One person said they appreciated a safe space “to talk, feel, even laugh…It is a welcome way station on the path to healing and wholeness again.”
Another member said it is “comforting knowing others have gone through many of the things I have— that I’m not alone.” Another added that the group is the “building of a new community of friends as we strive to find a different way to be happy.”
I think key to this group is this common understanding of the challenges the second year can bring. This finding of a new and understanding community of people can be so important as you go through grief and loss. This journey does continue well past the second year—in fact, one group member joked, “Do you have a ‘grief in the third year’ group?” But I have seen healing and growth occur as those who have been there find ways to support and inspire one another.
Gilchrist currently offers The Journey Continues: Grief Support in the Second Year support group in two locations. View our online registration form for more information.
What is Gilchrist Counseling & Support?
We offer extensive counseling and support services to meet your needs, whether your loved one has just received a serious or life-limiting diagnosis or is already receiving our care. Our medical team can offer guidance in anticipating future health care needs and making sense of treatment options. Our counselors are available to provide emotional support before and after a loss through one-on-one grief counseling, support groups and remembrance events. Learn more.