How To Choose The Right Bereavement Support Group

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge
Updated February 19, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For some people, grief can last a lifetime. After losing someone, you may have to adjust not only to the absence of the person you loved but to an entirely new way of life as you plan an alternative course that does not include them. 

Since grief is complicated, everyone processes their feelings at different speeds and heals in unique ways. While friends and family can provide emotional support for a time, they may not have the time, energy, and patience to offer constant support. 

When the support of friends and family becomes inadequate, you may consider joining a bereavement support group. Finding the right bereavement support group can be difficult, so there are a few considerations to note as you search for a group to belong to. 

Bereavement can take a toll on your mental health

What is a bereavement support group?

If you are early in the grieving process, friends and family may act as immediate support. However, if you've been struggling with grief for an extended time, attending a bereavement support group may help you in the long term. Below are the potential benefits of a bereavement support group:

  • A circle of healing

  • A safe place to express feelings due to loss

  • Validation and understanding 

  • An opportunity to educate yourself about the grieving process 

  • A place to get information about grief and loss 

  • Education in fundamental skills for navigating loss successfully

  • An environment where those struggling with grief can help one another

  • A helpful source of referrals to professionals, websites, and other resources

Steps to choosing the right bereavement group

If you believe you might benefit from this resource during your grieving journey, there are a few considerations to look at before choosing. 

Research group options 

Start by compiling a list of bereavement support groups in your area. Trustworthy sources of information could include doctors' offices, hospitals, therapists, and other health professionals. When you have the names of some groups that seem promising, dig deeper to find out if one of these groups could be worth your time. Some towns may have grief centers with unique groups and opportunities, such as adult grief camps. 

Find out the size of the group 

Before attending a group, ask how many people attend regularly. Generally, five to 15 people may be ideal for a support group to function effectively, but every group can differ. You might prefer a smaller group that offers a sense of vulnerability or a larger one that allows you to connect with more people.  

Consider the facilitator's qualifications 

Another major factor to consider is the qualifications of the facilitator. Not all groups have a facilitator with professional qualifications, and these may not be necessary. However, if there is a leader, it may be helpful for them to be familiar with grief and the grieving process. It could also be helpful for them to understand group dynamics, practice non-judgmental listening, and have the ability to control situations as they arise. 

If the facilitator is a volunteer, consider asking about their training and qualifications to lead a bereavement support session. If all these details appear in your favor, joining may be beneficial. 

Attend a meeting

To know if a group is right for you, it may help to test out a few meetings. A clear structure and evidence of established norms in the group can be valuable. However, also look for a group that safeguards the information people give. If you go to several meetings and the facilitator doesn't mention keeping the details of others safe, you might decide to try another group.  

After the meeting is over, consider how you feel. Reflect on how your emotional state has altered since you first arrived. If the group is the right fit, you may relate to a few or all of the following statements: 

  • I have learned some coping skills for dealing with my grief.

  • I feel less alone.

  • I now have helpful information and resources to guide me through the process.

  • I have more positive feelings about myself.

  • I feel less hopeless.

  • I feel that other participants of the group are supportive and encouraging.

  • I feel better than I did when I came in.

Even if a support group looks helpful on paper and meets all the criteria you've been searching for, how the group makes you feel may be more critical. The purpose of a bereavement support group is to support your mental wellness. If the group doesn't accomplish these goals, consider searching for other options. 

Bereavement can take a toll on your mental health

Alternative support options 

Grief can be painful and isolating, but you don't have to walk through this journey alone. In some cases, a bereavement support group may help you process your feelings healthily and productively. In other scenarios, you might benefit from extra support. 

Grieving can be challenging to cope with outside of the home, and some people may not want to physically attend therapy or a support group during this time. In these cases, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp can connect you with a therapist familiar with the grieving process. In addition to your individual sessions, you may be able to join support groups online with others who are moving through grief. 

A study on internet-based therapy found that grief can often be treated online. Researchers in the study assessed the efficacy of an internet-based intervention for grief after bereavement and found reductions in symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress, and grief. Participants rated their satisfaction with the treatment and the quality of the intervention highly.  

Takeaway

The grieving process may look different for everyone. However, as humans are social creatures, connecting with others after a loss can be helpful. If you're struggling to cope with grief, depression, anxiety, or anger, confiding in others for advice and encouragement might give meaning to your grieving process. 

A bereavement support group can provide comfort, socialization, kindness, and empathy. However, if you seek more personalized guidance, consider talking to a grief counselor online or in your area.

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