About three weeks ago I started my first grief group. Normally I had dealt with grief sporadically. It always seemed to be one of those things that came out of the blue and I was never truly prepared for, but about three weeks ago I was referred a handful of students who’s father, brother or mother had all died within the past two months and I figured it was the perfect time to add a new group to my array of groups that had only included anger management, life skills and substance abuse groups for the past three years.
I had been hesitant about adding a grief group because I don’t really like dealing with grief. I find it to be such a sad subject and I definitely didn’t want to spend fifty minutes a week surrounded by grieving teenagers. I thought it would be draining and depressing, but today I finished my third meeting with the five students in that group and so far find it to be my most spiritual and emotionally rewarding group.
Two members of my group are sisters who lost their mother to heart disease a couple of months ago. Another is a young man who lost his brother during a botch robbery. Another young woman lost her mother to cancer. Another young man lost his father to diabetes and the newest member of our group lost her mother due to complications due to lupus. I myself lost my father a little more than ten years ago to a car accident, so I was aware that there would probably be some emotional issues rising within myself as I conducted the group.
Right now I am battling controlling those emotions. Today as I was leading an exercise that dealt with what we missed the most about the person that passed away, I felt my eyes starting to water and I fought hard to not show it. I know on one hand it may be good for the group to see me dealing with my own issues of grief, but on the other hand I feel as the facilitator of the group, I need to always (or at least 99% of the time) be in control of my own emotions. I’ve never gotten grief therapy myself and have avoided talking about my father’s death in my own personal therapy, so yes I know this is “unfinished business”, but in the line of therapy, we therapist are human and there will always be times we knowingly or unexpectedly come across unfinished business or counter transference issues.
Eventually I’ll figure this out. I’ve told the group that there may be times when we are all crying together, and that’s okay, normal and healthy. Maybe I was preparing them so they won’t be shocked when and if I too start crying. I’ve never cried in a therapy session, not that I haven’t felt like crying, I just never allowed the tears to fall. However, in this group, I not only think it may at some point be appropriate to shed my tears, but also enlivening for me and the group members as they look to me for guidance on how to deal with their own grief.