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Posted: Monday, May 20, 2024

Navigating Grief

In the journey of life, facing death and loss is unavoidable. The spectrum of grief experienced in these moments can stretch from fleeting sorrow to pain that feels as if you are being physically torn apart. The term bereaved, rooted in the notion of being shattered, resonates with those enduring the profound ache of loss and the sensation of being fragmented by grief.

In our culture, where avoidance of grief is common, those mourning are bombarded with well-intentioned consolations. Phrases such as “they're in a better place,” or “time heals all wounds” are common, yet they seldom provide solace. Such remarks, while meant to comfort, gloss over the pain and essential process of mourning. “As well-meaning as these statements are intended, they often are not seen as helpful to someone whose heart is broken,” said Judith Towns, bereavement coordinator with Blount Memorial Hospice and Palliative Care.

Mourning is not merely a journey through sadness; it is the pathway to healing. It is in the telling of stories, the shedding of tears, and the vocalization of fears and sorrows that the bereaved begin to process and move forward. For many, the path of grief feels isolating. Yet, grief support groups offer a community of understanding that breaks through the isolation. These groups provide a sanctuary where individuals can share their experiences and emotions openly, free from judgment. The solidarity and empathy found within these groups can be healing, offering both comfort and connection.

Participating in a grief support group can significantly aid in navigating the new normal that follows a significant loss. Members often speak of the relief in finding a space where their stories are not only heard but also honored—a place where the “good, the bad and the ugly” can be shared without reservation. “There is a tremendous freedom as group members come into a non-judgmental environment and get to say what longs to be said. Group members can bond very quickly, and the mutual support can be quite healing,” Towns explained.

The impact of a grief support group can be transformative. Reports of improved sleep, heightened confidence and an expanded support network are common. Perhaps most importantly, group members frequently express a newfound capacity to cope and an eventual shift from merely surviving grief to thriving in its aftermath. “As a facilitator of these groups, my role is to foster a safe environment where the difficult emotions of grief can be expressed and validated. I strive to encourage the expression of grief, to normalize its experiences and to support healing. My aspiration is for people who walk through the door to leave knowing they can survive their grief and in fact, maybe thrive after loss,” Towns said.

Alan Wolfelt, a renowned grief counselor, encapsulates the essence of healing through support: I heal, in part, by allowing others to express their love for me. By choosing to invite others into my journey, I move toward healing and health. If I hide from others, I hide from healing.

For more information about grief support groups, call Blount Memorial Hospice and Palliative Care at 865-977-5702.

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