Debra Podish, Director of Patient and Family Volunteer Services (left) and Hannah Creager, Chaplain (right), co-facilitators of our tri-annual bereavement support groups.

Fall is fast approaching, and so is our bereavement support group season.

September 6 marked the first day of our Fall Bereavement Support Group here at Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg.

We recognize that focused bereavement support groups like ours are not for everyone.  Just as everyone loves differently, everyone grieves differently.

Sometimes people who have lost a loved one need just need some space.  Sometimes they need to be engaged in more individual activities and rituals in order to process their loved one’s death.  Engaging with a group of individuals in an emotionally expressive context is not helpful for them.  And that is OK.

On the other hand, some people find that they need extra support in the journey that is grief, and that is where we come in at Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg.

How do you know if you need to consider a bereavement support group? Well, here are some indicators:


  1. You’ve been feeling isolated in your grief.

Losing a loved one can be a profoundly isolating experience.  Our society is not the best at allowing space for individuals who have lost loved ones to openly talk about the emotional, physical and spiritual challenges that grief presents.

In my time spent working with the bereaved, I often hear how friends and relatives offer advice and platitudes that (unintentionally) isolate the grieving people they think they are helping. One woman once told me how, after the loss of her husband, a well-meaning friend had said: “Don’t worry – there are other fish in the sea.”  The woman’s immediate thought was: “But I don’t want another man in my life.  I want my husband to be with me.”

If you are feeling that those closest to you are dismissing your grief experience, and if you are feeling distanced from individuals who can’t seem to relate to what you are feeling, it’s probably a sign that you could use a support group.


  1. You feel that you could use some practical advice.

No one, of course, needs or wants the platitudes that sometimes follow a significant loss, but sometimes advice can be an asset when you are new to grief.  This is particularly true when those who have been through experiences similar to your own can offer some insight and understanding about what the process might look like.

For instance, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all of the paperwork and the details surrounding your deceased love one’s estate.  The benefit of  a support group is that participants may have some very helpful tips on how to approach this particular challenge; and, that when they offer their advice they will do so with empathetic understanding.

At Hospice House & Support Care, we offer bereavement-specific support groups because we recognize that it is helpful to have practical advice from individuals who have walked similar journeys.  Once a month we host a support group for individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide because this specific loss comes with specific challenges.  One of these challenges is addressing the societal stigma of suicide.  For example, those who have survived a suicide often find that people who hear of their loss avoid them or shut down when they hear how their loved one died.   Group participants have the unique ability to grant new participants practical advice on how to confront and correct some of these typical responses.

Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg also hosts a support group called The Compassionate Friends.  This group is for adults who have experienced the death of a child, grandchild or sibling.  Again, this group enables those facing similar challenges in the grief process to find empathetic support and constructive practical advice.

Of course, each individual has his or her own approach to what the journey that is grief looks like, and you don’t have to take into consideration all of the suggestions that are offered in your support group sessions.  However, support groups give you a space in which to receive imparted information and sort out what will work best for your experience.


  1. You’re searching for a sense of hope.

It is natural in the beginning stages of grief to wonder if there will ever be a day in which your sense of joy and purpose will return.  The emotional, physical and spiritual pain that is grief can cloud your hope of restoration on any given day.

One of the benefits of being in a bereavement support group is that you will meet people who are several months out from where you are in your grief journey and who can exemplify that healing is possible.  Their stories may be able to help restore your hope that laughter and purpose will be possible again.

At our spring bereavement support group this year, which finished in June, the group so enjoyed one another’s company that they were saying at the end of the group: “I wish this didn’t have to end!” and “Let’s meet up for coffee!”   They had all found a renewed sense of purpose in each other and the group, and they didn’t want to lose that rediscovered sense of meaning in their lives.  Many of our bereavement support group attendees continue to reunite through regular activities hosted by our Walking/Social group.   And, as someone who attends these events on a regular basis, I will say that laughter and life abound.

Interested in reading more about our support groups?  Click here.


summer 2

Our Walking/Social Group is comprised of more than 250 people who meet up for regular walks, meals and other social activities in Williamsburg.

Audrey Smith is the Executive Director of Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg (HHSCW). HHSCW is a social-model hospice that cares for people at the end of life, comforts the bereaved and empowers others to do the same. The Hospice House itself is a spacious residence that is a home away from home for our guests and their families. Support care services range from companionship in families' homes to extensive bereavement programs provided to families throughout the community. Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg is a 501(c)(3) organization that is entirely funded by contributions. No family or individual ever receives a bill for our services and support; nor do we accept Medicare, Medicaid or other reimbursements. For more information or to make a gift, please call Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg at 757-253-1220 or visit


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