Dying Changes Everything

My New Grief Group Part 2

Grief work is definitely an extremely rewarding experience. My grief group is still my favorite group of all and we are on week four I think. There is just so much I get out of the group and yet it is one of the most emotionally draining parts of my week.

Last week one of the members came to me in private and broke down crying. She was angry, angry at God, angry at her mother and angry at herself. She blamed God for taking her mother. She blamed her mother for not telling her she was going to die (her mother was sick and she assumed her mother knew just how terminally ill she really was) and she blamed herself for not being there when her mother died (as if she were psychic).

I listened to her frustrations and processed her irrational thoughts with her, but it was hard for me to see and hear such a beautiful girl in so much emotional pain, knowing that the only thing that could make her happy was implausible. So much had changed in her life since her mother had passed away…

Her mother was her sole guardian, so right now no one has any real guardianship legally over her although she is staying with an aunt. Her grades in school are suffering and her dreams for the future have been derailed because “nothing matters any more”. At seventeen, in high school, no one should lose their mother. “It’s not fair” are the words she cried out and I agree with her, it’s not fair, but it’s what happened and now we have to try to find the strength and the courage to move on. The road ahead is not easy, but it is doable. It’s at these times I definitely try to encourage my clients spiritual beliefs, because at times like this, they are often all we have to try to make some since of what has happened, why it has happened, and how to move forward.

I would do anything to make this client and all the clients in my grief group happier, and I know the fifty minutes they spend with me a week processing and dealing with their feelings over thier loved ones death may not always be the most pleasant way to spend their time, but I know it is necessary to deal with it now while it is fresh than to bury it and have to deal with it repeatedly later in life.

My New Grief Group

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.