How can a grief support group help me cope with the death of a loved one?

If you are having difficulty coping with someone's death, consider joining a support group. For many people, support groups offer a nonjudgemental environment where they can find comfort in expressing their feelings to people who can relate. To join a support group in your area, contact a local hospital or hospice for recommendations. There are also many support communities online.
A sounding board, a voice of experience, people to share with—a good grief support group promises many things. Should you join one? That depends on your circumstances. Don't feel pressured to do so. But if you think you could benefit from talking about your experiences and hearing about those of others, you may find a group quite helpful.

Sometimes friends and family members shy away from strong emotions and sad topics. You may feel they just don't understand what you're going through. Even caring friends and relatives may start to indicate subtly or outright that it's time for you to move on before you're ready to do so. These attitudes only isolate you further and make you feel worse. A grief support group can offer understanding and a sense of connection. In the company of others treading a similar path, you can express strong feelings, validate the varied emotions you feel, and possibly even hear good advice.

Grief support groups differ widely. They may be open to anyone or focus on particular diseases or situations, such as a group for widowers or bereaved children. Some groups are ongoing; others convene for a specific length of time. Groups may charge fees, which are sometimes covered by health insurance. Certain organizations consist of a network of self-help groups. In Compassionate Friends, for example, parents who have experienced grief after the death of a child of any age reach out to other parents in similar circumstances.

A local hospice, hospital, or community organization may be able to guide you to a group that is capably led and seems to be a good fit. Your doctor, a therapist, or a religious organization might also be able to help you locate a support group.

If a group feels uncomfortable or you're unsure if it's the right fit, try talking to the group facilitator. Of course, after trying a few sessions, if you find that focusing on your grief makes you feel worse or you don't think the group is right for you, then don't feel compelled to stick around. In that case, you might consider one-on-one counseling.

Continue Learning about Grief & Emotional Health

Coping with Sudden Loss
Coping with Sudden Loss
Grieving the sudden loss of a loved one can be difficult and heartbreaking. We spoke with licensed psychotherapist Julie Hanks, PhD, LCSW, for tips on...
Read More
What is a healthy way to grieve?
There is no right way to grieve; everyone experiences loss and grief differently. For some, grief ma...
More Answers
What is an anniversary effect?
Deborah Serani, PsyDDeborah Serani, PsyD
Anniversary Effect, sometimes called Anniversary Reaction, is defined as a unique set of unsettl...
More Answers
Finding Hope After Senseless Tragedy
Finding Hope After Senseless Tragedy

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.