When my son died, I had no interest in support groups. Hearing other loss stories and witnessing other people’s pain sounded terrible – I could barely function within my own tragedy.
If I could go back in time and give my newly-bereaved self some advice, it would be to go to support groups sooner.
I was lucky in that my husband would talk with me – about how we were feeling, day-to-day interactions, triggers, what our life might look like from here, our fears, our guilt. Having him made the lack of peer support in the beginning bearable, but it could have been better. We could have learned the language of grief and baby loss and heard coping mechanisms that may have resonated with us.
There is just nothing like having someone who has been through this, is going through this, to talk to. To express what we’re feeling and to reflect on what we hear. Even now – over five years out – I find value in support groups.
Even with the most deep and long-lasting relationships, it can feel awkward to bring up feelings about your dead children. We (or at least I) can be worried we seem too needy, too self-centered, or too much of a downer. When do you do it? When is the right time? And as a supportive friend, how do you know when to invite the conversation – or how? Especially as time goes on, the natural invitations and check-ins on grief wane because life has gone on and there are other topics on the surface.
That’s not the case in support groups.
They are a dedicated time and space to delve into the grief, the loss, our children. This is the opportunity to speak the truth. About our parenthood, our emotional journey, how we handled triggers, how we attempted to hold it together. Part of the comfort from peer support is the actual emotions and stories shared, and part of it is the relief of simply being honest. No pretense, no charade, no mask, no faux smile.
Speaking the truth is one of the best ways to honor it.
While in-person support groups are not an option right now due to COVID-19 gathering recommendations, there are still many active support groups meeting virtually, through Zoom and other web conferencing applications. A few of PALS local Meet-Ups are still meeting through Zoom, so reach out to your local meet-up and see if that’s an option. There are also many online support groups, and Pregnancy After Loss Support offers several Facebook support groups depending on your situation.