How To Choose The Right Bereavement Support Group

Updated October 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It Can Be Hard To Know How To Care For Our Mental Health

If you have suffered the loss of a spouse, a parent, a child, or even just a dear friend, the feelings of grief can seem like an endless black hole. Grief is a messy and complicated emotion that does not fit with anyone's cultural perceptions or timetable. While friends and family may be able to provide emotional support for a short time, they may hit their limit when they find that your grief extends far beyond the time, energy, and patience that they have to give. Truthfully, feelings of loss can last a lifetime, as you adjust not only to the absence of someone you love but to an entirely new way of life as you plan a new course which does not include him or her.
At the moment when the support of friends and family becomes inadequate, you may consider joining a bereavement support group for those who have suffered similar kinds of loss. It can be just one of many helpful ways to spend bereavement time. Depending on your personality, the stage you are in your grieving process, and the qualities of the group, this can be helpful to you as you learn to manage your grief.

But finding the right bereavement counseling or online grief support group for you can be difficult. 

Here are some things to keep in mind as you decide the right kind of group to attend, and some bereavement quotes to provide comfort.

What A Bereavement Support Group Is

If you are early on in the grieving process, friends and family may be all the support you need right now. Or if other factors complicate your grief, the help of an individual therapist might be more appropriate than seeking healing in this setting. If this is the case, contact one of our trained professional counselors at BetterHelp to get started on your journey.

Here are all the things that a bereavement support group is.
  • A circle of healing
  • A safe place to express feelings of loss
  • A place to feel validated, heard, and understood
  • An opportunity to educate yourself about the grieving process and your place in it
  • A place to learn real skills for navigating the experience of loss successfully
  • An environment where those struggling with grief can help one another
  • A helpful source of referrals to professionals, websites, and print materials to aid in the grieving process

If this sounds like what you need, then it may be time to begin researching the best bereavement support group for you.

Doing Your Homework

When you have the names of some groups that seem promising, it's time to dig a little deeper to find out if one of these groups is worth your time.

First of all, how did you find out about it? The most trustworthy sources of information are doctor's offices, hospitals, therapists, or any health professional. However, if you found out about this gathering via the Internet or word of mouth, don't discount it. Just make sure you do your research thoroughly.

It Can Be Hard To Know How To Care For Our Mental Health

You may also want to ask how many people attend on a regular basis. Generally, 12-15 is the ideal number for a support group to function effectively. 

Another major factor to consider is the qualifications of the facilitator. Not all groups will have a facilitator with professional qualifications…and these may not be necessary. However, the leader does need to know grief and the grieving process. He or she also needs to be a good and non-judgmental listener. An understanding of group dynamics and the ability to regulate situations as they arise is also important. If the facilitator is a volunteer, ask about the training process that these volunteers must undergo to lead a bereavement support session.

If all these details appear to be in your favor, it's time to go check out a meeting or two.

What To Look For When You Attend A Bereavement Support Group For The First Time

How do you know whether or not a gathering is right for you? It may take a couple of meetings for you to tell. When you go, there are some things you should look for.
In addition to a clear structure, look for evidence of established norms in the group. 

But the most important norm you need to look for is that of confidentiality. If you go to several meetings without any reference being made to this norm, be wary.

More important even than norm-setting is the way you feel after the meeting is over. At the end of the meeting, reflect on how your emotional state had altered (or not) since when you first arrived.

You should be able to honestly say most of the following things about your group experience.

  • I have learned some coping skills for dealing with my grief.
  • I feel less alone.
  • I now have useful information and resources to guide me through the process.
  • I have more positive feelings about myself.
  • I feel less hopeless.
  • I feel that other members of the group are supportive and encouraging.
  • I feel better than I did when I came in.

If you cannot say yes to the majority of these bullet points, then it doesn't matter if this bereavement support group meets all other criteria. Ultimately, if it doesn't accomplish its purpose in helping you feel better, it isn't worth your time.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Support System

Grief is a painful journey. But with a good bereavement support group, you don't have to take that journey alone.

Other Commonly Asked Questions:

Is bereavement the same as grief?

What are the different types of bereavement?

What is bereavement?

What are the 4 stages of bereavement?

What is masked grief?

How long does it take to get over a death?

What are the 5 stages?

What are 3 common reactions to death?

What are the 5 types of loss?

What is bereavement example?

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

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