Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

Different Outlets for Grief


Someone asked me the other day after reading the Public vs Private Grief post, “Have you considered a bereavement group? That way you can still talk about your grief with people who understand.” I told her I used to go to a bereavement group and it was sort of helpful, but ultimately not quite right for me, possibly because it wasn’t the right group. It’s ironic actually because the group was in the same building (different night, 2 doors down) as the caregiver’s group I used to attend… and I can’t say enough about the caregiver’s group. So, why the difference?

The caregiver’s group was, for lack of a better term, members-only. You had to apply to join – not a lengthy application, but you had to explain your situation and then do a phone interview with the administrator. Once you were accepted, attendance was somewhat mandatory. You were expected to be there every week unless you were sick, out-of-town, too busy, or your loved one needed you to be home. In such case, you were expected to let the moderator know (via email or phone call), so that she could inform the other members. This might sound strict, but it ended up creating a sense of accountability and consistency. It also helped create a bond between the group members. We saw each other every week and grew to trust and rely on one another for support.

The bereavement group was more inclusive. Anyone who was grieving could attend, whenever they wanted. Consistency was encouraged but not mandatory. This created a sense of fluidity and openness, but not intimacy. I would often find myself across the room from someone new. And any time there was someone new we all had to explain why we were there. It was difficult and unpleasant to repeat week after week “My husband died of brain cancer __ months ago… blah blah blah.” I also wasn’t comfortable sharing my feelings with people I had never seen before and might never see again. Plus, the new people would (understandably) be in that very early, raw, gut-wrenching, my-entire-world-just-turned-upside-down phase of grief, which triggered things for me that I was trying to move past.

Not all bereavement groups are like that. My mother-in-law, for example, goes to one in the D.C. area that she loves. But it’s like my old caregiver’s group. She’s been with the same people for almost 2 years, and the group has been immensely helpful for her.

I suppose I could find a group like that here, and maybe I will one day. But probably not. First of all, my time is already limited with work, writing and puppy. Second of all, I have this blog. Thirdly, though I’m still grieving, I prefer to handle it on my own, in my own way. This might change, but for now, that’s where I’m at.

Now I’m no expert, but like with most personal matters, I think to each his own. What works for one might not work for another. Whatever gets a person through the day, be it a bereavement group, writing, religious faith, art, exercise, therapy, meditation… is what that person should do. Some people have lots of sex after a loved one passes, and I can understand why. Sex is at its core the opposite of death. We feel alive when we’re doing it. We’re also in the moment (briefly). It is certainly the opposite of an empty bed, though sex without intimacy won’t replace the intimacy we crave with lost spouses.

An activity I wouldn’t encourage in excess is drugs and alcohol. I haven’t exactly been the most sober person the past two years and I don’t know any widow who doesn’t know her way through the wine aisle at the local liquor store. But it’s a slippery slope. If you’re calling out of work and avoiding daily functions, you’re probably taking it too far.

I think we could all agree that the #1 worst option is suicide, which can be a desire while in the depths of grief. But every literature out there will tell you, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If/when you feel tempted, please tell somebody and get help.

The challenge is to find healthy outlets that work for you. It’s tempting (and all too easy) to dull or avoid our pain. It’s much harder but ultimately more therapeutic to face it, feel it, live it and move through it.

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

8 thoughts on “Different Outlets for Grief

  1. So well said. While I have not been widowed, I tried an Al-Anon group (to deal with my mother’s alcoholism) and found it just very weird. It’s a very American thing to walk into a room filled with strangers and be expected to quickly and easily spill your guts. Very weird indeed for those of us from more private cultures (Canada, Britain) for whom self-disclosure is often slow and very much a mark of intimacy.

  2. I love your writings :).

    Will email you again soon. I’ve been in a bit of a grief cocoon, unfortunately.

    The last three blogs of yours have been particularly amazing, keep up the good work.


  3. I tend to agree regarding commitment and accountability being directly related to the success of any meaningful group experience, especially one in which you’re expected to be vulnerable.

  4. I agree, we all have to find what works for us. I would like to have found a group, but I was too busy taking care of the business he left behind and dealing with a whole host of other things. Unfortunately, I dealt with a lot of it not so well – my depression was triggered and I pretty much withdrew from the world, but writing has helped, quite a bit actually.

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