Today we begin the first week in my 8-week series, giving you a virtual glimpse into the curriculum of the Seasonal Bereavement Support Group offered at HHSCW.
During the journey of grief, whether it is from the death of a loved one, or through a traumatic experience that has changed your life and identity, you will probably tell your story more times than you might wish. Sometimes you are telling the story to yourself, over and over in your head, analyzing every detail of every moment. Sometimes you are sharing with a trusted friend or therapist. But quite often you are sharing your story because someone asked you about it, maybe when you least expect to share it. Whenever this may happen to you, you will be faced with the question “Where do I begin?” You might begin five years back, 20 years back, you may begin the day of a hospital stay or the day of a major life event. You may have no clue where to begin. Our story where we most need to begin at that moment. It depends on how you are feeling that day, what is most on your mind, this story is never recounted exactly the same way twice.
So how do we begin to share our stories? In grief group, we begin by finding a trusting safe space to practice telling it, to get the “feel” for the words that you never wished to say out loud.
My group participants come prepared on the first day to share a part of their story, for 5 minutes. This may feel like a short time to communicate the context, the history, and the intense emotions this story stirs up. But this may be all you can handle at first. In sharing in group, trust begins to form, questions are gently asked, affirmations are offered, kindness, and sometimes just no words at all are offered.
Sharing your story with strangers is an incredibly therapeutic “hurdle” to get over on the first day. Today I want to offer you not a blueprint or guide for crafting the story you so desperately need to share, but instead, I offer you encouragement. No matter how many words you say, once you begin this process of sharing, and of listening to others stories, you can begin to hear yourself, your needs are expressed, and you will know more about yourself than before.
During this challenging time in our world, we have stories, a history which bond us. Some of us may go through this time without experiencing illness or the death of a loved one. Some of us will have more sadness than we can bear. Others will deal with the toll that loneliness can take during this time of social distancing. All of these experiences are stories that will need to be shared. Where do you begin? That is up to you, right now, at this moment. Tomorrow, your story will start somewhere else.
In my experience, crafting the story of your grief can (very) generally fall into two methods of narrative for some, for others, they are more integrated. These methods I have come to see as either detail-oriented, or feelings-oriented, and these really depend on you at that moment. In sharing my personal grief, I found that I needed to begin my story (for months and years) with only details, a timeline narrative of what happened, when, where, who, what, and why. This felt like an “anchor” to me, to hold on to facts. Once those facts became less important over time, I could dig into my feelings a little more, and retell the story with that lens, going deeper into the layers of what I experienced, and what I need now.
Tomorrow (April 21st) at 2pm ET we will begin our first Zoom Virtual Bereavement Support Group using Zoom. This is a free and open group for people to join together, to check in with familiar faces, and to discuss this topic of “sharing your story.” If you would like to share your story, please begin with sharing for only 5 minutes. The 5-minute limit is really to help you practice what you need to share, and also to allow others time to speak. This session will be 1.5 hours long, as it would be at HHSCW.
But please note, I will make adjustments as needed to this format, as it is very new and we are learning!
Won’t you please join us tomorrow afternoon for a chat, to see friendly faces, and to connect with ourselves and each other in this beautiful community a little bit more? If you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to use Zoom for the Virtual Meeting (Video and Voice):
If you are on a desktop browser, click this link to join our meeting, if you do not have Zoom installed, it will prompt you to install it.
If you are on a smart phone, download the Zoom app, and then click this link, or enter the meeting ID number: 5774470833