Group therapy is a unique and supportive therapeutic environment that can foster a safe place for healing from a loss. The first time I completed the Grief Recovery Method Program was in a group setting. I was full of anxiety and fear, especially the thought of having to share my deepest sadness with other people. I was overwhelmed with happiness when I found group therapy to be transformational and played a key role in my healing. The support, compassion, and healing I felt through this model of therapy helped me find courage to move forward and heal from my losses. When we grieve we may feel alone, or have a difficult time identifying how we feel, and also feel isolated at the same time. During group, you can recognize that you are not alone and the support and compassion that is received allows you to be yourself and take action in your healing.
You Are Not Alone
When our hearts are breaking and we are emotionally suffering, we may feel alone and isolated in this process. It may seem like our pain and sadness is so heavy and overwhelming that others must not know how it feels for us or what it is feels like at all. Irvin Yalom & Molyn Leszcz (2005) authors of The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy explains that many people begin therapy with the idea that they are unique in their wretchedness or have unacceptable problems, thoughts and feelings. Our sadness, our grief, and our relationships we lost is unique to us, therefore grieving, healing, and mourning is unique to us as well.
No one will truly know how we feel, because we all grieve different relationships and losses; however other people are experiencing their own pain and suffering and may be feeling lonely and isolated too. We are not alone in our suffering. Having the opportunity to work in a group helps us understand that grief does not have to be a lonely and isolating process, rather noticing that others are going through their unique pain as well. Understanding that we are not alone can allow us to feel safe, heard, and validated. When we can recognize others are also suffering, we begin to feel the human connection and can lessen our feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Vocalizing and Identifying Emotions
For some, social support may be minimal or others may feel they can’t talk to people in their lives about their loss. For me, I felt like I was burdening others with my grief, and therefore I slowly stopped talking about how I felt. When we feel like we are not supported we can begin to hide our feelings and not voice them anymore. Group therapy allows us to hear others speak about their loss, which can encourage us to find our voice again. Witnessing others begin to feel vulnerable and have courage to share their story can give us the strength to begin to share ours again.
Additionally, our pain is sometimes so intense we do not know how to identify or explain our loss with words. Listening to others share and describe their losses can help us make connections and identify emotion words that can describe our story. In my experience, I felt stuck in my grief, but I could not uncover the word that correctly explained how I was feeling. I remember hearing someone speak up and say “Sometimes I feel unwanted or unloved.” Immediately after I heard this sentence, I burst out into tears because feeling unlovable was the exact term I needed to describe how I was feeling. It was in the moment that I was able to identify and acknowledge what was keeping me stuck in my pain and then take action in my recovery and healing to move forward.
The Need for Human Connection
Ivrin Yalom & Molyn Leszcz share that “people need people, for initial and continued survival, for socialization and the pursuit of satisfaction. No one, not the dying nor the outcast or the mighty transcends the need for human contact. What people need is to make contact, to touch others, voice their concerns and to feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.”
Human beings need connection and want to feel a sense of belonging. When something exciting happens in your life who do you turn to? When something sad happens in your life who do you confide in? When you experience a success in your life who do you share it with? We all look for connection in our good times and our challenging times in our lives. When we find that connection we strive for acceptance, compassion and belonging.
Brene Brown explains that when we feel a sense of belonging we do not have to change who we are, rather we are able to be who we are. Together as a group, group norms are established including having no judgement, analysis or criticism. When we look from this lens, we allow people to be vulnerable and be who they are which in turn creates the feeling of belonging. Support and connection is one of the most powerful and therapeutic foundations for healing. When we have the opportunity to voice our feelings to another human, we can feel safe, heard, and validated. We feel a sense of belonging, which creates a strong foundation for us to be courageous and share our pain with others who are willing to support us.
Taking the steps to join a group may be anxiety provoking or intimidating. I encourage you to see the benefits of group therapy and think about if it could be a good fit for you. At The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre, we offer a 6-Week Pet Loss Group, 8-Week Grief Recovery Group, 4-Week When Children Grieve Group, and 2-Day Grief Recovery Group Workshop. Please click here for upcoming group and workshop dates.
If you are seeking professional support to address your grief or trauma, our team is equipped with the tools to help. Please reach out to us at The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre at 780-288-8011 or email@example.com.
This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs.
Brown, B. (2016). The Gifts of Imperfection. [United States]: Joosr Ltd.
Yalom, I., & Leszcz, M. (2005). The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books.