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  • Writer's pictureMary Jensen

It's called a Bereavement Support Group

After some confusion with my GPS map, I finally found the right building on the Hospice property where the bereavement support group meeting was being held.

The first thing I learned is it’s not called grief support, they call it bereavement support. Does that make it sound better? Does that make the grief subside more quickly? I'm not sure.

The woman hosting the group was polite and welcoming. She asked me to sign in and complete a few forms providing my information. She then gave me a paper detailing their privacy policy and a pamphlet describing what grief is and the various phases of grief. I found a seat and completed the paperwork. I thought it was strange to have to provide this information, but I complied with her request.

The large room was dimly lit. The chairs were set up in a circle with everyone facing each other. I observed several boxes of tissues strategically placed throughout the circle. A few seats were already taken. I found a seat at the opposite end of the room. People continued to stroll in after me. I watched in silence as everyone found their seats and the host began the meeting. The room was freezing, like a morgue. Yes, I actually had that thought while I sat there. I wish I had brought my sweater.

The meeting host introduced herself and announced to the group that there were some new members today, namely me and the guy sitting next to me. She asked that we go around the room and say our name, and the name and relation of our loved one who had passed, starting with the person to her right. Okay, I thought, I can do that much. When it was my turn, I took a deep breath and spoke directly to the host. I said, “My name is Mary and my son died.” I exhaled and hoped that no one asked me a single question. No one did. The person to my right said her name and they continued around the room.

Most of the people there talked about their spouses who died from long illnesses. Many of them were elderly, now widows and widowers after forty or fifty years of marriage. A few cried as they spoke. I could sense their sorrow as I listened to their stories. I held back my tears and my pain, focusing on my breathing instead.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been watching The West Wing on Netflix. It was a favorite show of mine when it originally aired. I am enjoying it all over again. For some odd reason, my mind drifted to this show. Each time I felt like the dam would burst, and I could not control my emotions, my mind went to a specific scene from the show. I could see the faces of Toby and President Bartlett arguing in the Oval Office. This is a strange way to calm down, I know, but it worked. I was able to keep it together for the remaining forty-five minutes of the meeting.

I know what you are thinking. What better place to break down, cry and talk about Erik than here, in this cold room, surrounded by strangers brought together by death. If there was any place to express how I was feeling and be understood, this was it. Yet, I felt paralyzed. I understood all too well the pain and sadness the others talked about, yet I could not speak.

When the meeting came to an end, the host thanked everyone for coming. I was sitting at the back of the circle which meant I was one of the last to walk out. As I exited, the host stopped me. She told me she was glad I came here tonight and hoped I would come back. She said she could see my pain and suggested the next time I try to talk about it because it will help me. I know she is right. I am afraid of what will happen when I open those floodgates. She said the next meeting is in two weeks. I plan to be there.


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