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How to find the right support group for you

By Erica Lamberg
Participating in a support group can help the griever find new empathy, new understandings, and renewed strengths. Mattias Zomer / Pexels

A support group can be a resource for coping with loss. According to the Hospice Foundation of America, participating in a support group can help the griever find new empathy, new understandings, and renewed strengths. 

Here are some steps to take to find a support group that's right for you.

Tip 1: Find support groups to choose from

Avenues to find a support group include houses of worship, professional referrals or online resources.

Rachel Cohen, MSW, LCSW, owner and therapist with Seaside Counseling Center in Jacksonville, Florida suggests the following ideas:

Maria Georgopoulos, LMHC, FT director of bereavement services at Calvary Hospital in Bronx, NY, says bereavement support groups can be found in all types of settings across the country.

She suggests contacting your local hospice, funeral home or place of worship as they usually have grief-support resources and may be able to help you locate a group. “It’s best to choose a group connected to a healthcare setting or community organization with at least five to ten years of continuous experience offering bereavement support,” Georgopoulos advises.

Tip 2: Know who is leading the group

What is the professional training of the people leading the group?

Georgopoulos suggests looking for groups led by facilitators who have group expertise and a specialty in grief or bereavement or thanatology. ”If you find groups led by licensed counselors, they might also be available to provide one-on-one counseling if you are best served in that way,” she says.

Tip 3: Be open to the benefits of the grief support

When choosing a support group, consider how frequently the groups meet.

Support groups that meet weekly for a set period of time provide the consistent support grievers need, says Georgopoulos.

The Mayo Clinic notes that people who have participated in support and bereavement groups say the experience gave them an emotional connection when they felt isolated from friends and family. “Support and bereavement groups offer people the opportunity to release powerful emotions they may otherwise keep to themselves,” says the Mayo Clinic. “Providers say support groups can improve a participant's mood and decrease psychological distress.”

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