Our bereavement support groups began in mid 2009 as a response to needs that were identified by members of the bereavement team, and through findings from a local bereavement research project. Since then we have operated two groups on the Central Coast. Our Southern Group is held in the Woy Woy area whilst our Northern group is held in Wyongah. Both groups are facilitated by our experienced Bereavement Counsellors, and trained Bereavement Volunteers.
There are three pathways into our Bereavement Groups:
- G.P. Referral to the Bereavement Service.
- Palliative Care follow-up through being contacted and supported by our Bereavement Volunteers and/or Bereavement Counselling staff.
- Bereavement Self-referral.
Why a Bereavement Group?
For a significant number of people experiencing the death of someone important in their lives, intense feelings of isolation and loneliness can contribute to the suffering that they experienced in bereavement. While we may have friends or family who care about us and wish to see us feel better – we may not feel safe to talk openly about how we are really feeling, and how we might be really experiencing our grief. Sometime those around us – find it hard to hear how things really are, and the person grieving may feel a need to keep quiet about their pain and experiences of grief. The person grieving may feel they need to protect their family and friends not wishing to burden them.
It can be very helpful to have a space where you are free to talk openly about your experience of bereavement in an atmosphere of respect and safety where others really understand what you are talking about. If you are feeling isolated and alone, or that those around you don’t really understand your experience of grief then the “Creating Connections” support group may be for you.
How Long Should I Attend?
The “Creating Connections” program runs twice a month during the second and fourth weeks of that month. If group members find the group helpful, they are invited to attend for two terms before they are required to speak to the group leader about continuing. Long-term group members will be invited to join the “Continuing On” Bereavement Support Group, which is held during the first week of each month.
We recognise that each person grieves in a unique way – and therefore if a group member feels they need to attend the more structured “Creating Connections” group they can raise this with the Coordinator/Group leader. Our groups do cycle around a program. However, you can begin and leave a group at any stage during the cycle.
It takes two terms to complete the program. If you have questions about this, we encourage you to raise them with your group leaders.
How Will I Know When I No Longer Need the Group?
Many people find that when they first come to a “Creating Connections” bereavement group, they feel very vulnerable and raw. Those attending the group find they are in a place where they can safely share their experiences openly without judgement. As you gain confidence in your self and the ways you are handling your grief, you will find that the benefits you receive begin to slow down. You will also feel less raw and it will be time for you to change to the “Continuing On” program.
Movement from one program to the next, is necessary as the two groups are designed to meet progressing needs. As you become stronger, your need for structured group support will reduce. What was helpful in the group at the beginning will begin to feel unnecessary and no longer be of interest to you.
We are required to be continually placed to support very vulnerable people, so please be aware that your increasing comfort in the group, raised confidence, and the lessening of raw feeling signals that positive change has occurred; you have grown. Your needs will also have changed.
If you are unsure about which group to attend, please speak with your group leader. Anyone who has attended the full program (six months) will have a time arranged where they will meet with their group leader to determine what level of group support is most appropriate. It is common for members to find that they are ready to leave a group when their need to directly share around their experience of loss levels out, whilst the desire to talk more broadly and be involved in social activities comes to the fore.
Is Contact Between Participants Encouraged Outside of Group Meetings?
Sometimes members in a group find they connect well, and that there is benefit to seeing each other outside of planned meetings. When meeting up with members outside of the group, participants need to be mindful of boundary issues. For instance, what is shared confidentially in a group needs to stay in the group and should not be discussed outside of the group.
Forming friendships and positive connections with others outside of the group can be highly beneficial and assist people in their healing. Conversations within these friendships may be of a more personal nature and if shared within the “Creating Connections” group may cause discomfort for the more vulnerable bereaved person. Once again what is shared within these friendships remains confidential.
While for the majority of people attending the idea of being drawn into a partner relationship is the furthest thing from their mind, we do remind people to be cautious, and to remember each person in a group is vulnerable. We do not encourage people to form partner relationships with other members of a group. Forming partner relationships when in the early process of experiencing bereavement can lead to complications that heighten the experience of grief in the longer term.
If you have concerns about being in contact with others outside of meetings, please talk to your group leader(s).
What if I Don’t Find the Group Suits Me?
While there are advantages to attending a bereavement support group we recognise that groups do not suit everyone. If you find that this is the case, you are invited to speak with the group facilitator as individual grief counselling may better suit your needs.
Am I Automatically Placed in a Group when I Call In?
The steps to entering a group begin when you make that first phone call.
When you phone your contact details will be taken, and the leader of the Bereavement Support Group in your area will return your call. It is important that anyone intending to join a bereavement group first talks with a group leader. This way your individual needs and circumstances can be taken into account.
While most people will not need additional or alternative support, the Group Leader may suggest that you receive individual support through counselling instead of attending a group. Alternately, individual counselling may be suggested as an adjunct to the group for a period of time. The Group Leader’s role is to assess what level of support will be most helpful for you.
How Much Does it Cost?
Our “Creating Connections” bereavement support groups are free to all who attend. Our groups are funded by the “Central Coast Palliative Care Volunteer Foundation”. Further information can be found on their web address at: www.palcarefoundation.org/
Facilitating Bereavement Staff are provided by the Central Coast Area Health Service.
Who Can Attend?
To be eligible for a place in the “Creating Connections Bereavement Support Group” you will need to have experienced the death of someone significant to you, recently or in the past. Our groups are focussed on grief that is related to bereavement. The person who died may, or may not have been a patient of Palliative Care. The death may have been expected, or sudden and untimely.
What if I’m Shy or Don’t Feel Up to Sharing?
Often people attending a group for the first time, or people who are shy, may not feel up to sharing. The “Creating Connections” group does not force people to talk when they do not feel up to this. Your need to “pass” will be respected. We aim to assist our group members to feel safe, and do not pressure anyone to share at a level or time when they would feel uncomfortable to do so.
I’m interested, what number do I ring?
Contact the Bereavement Service on 4336 7777 and ask to speak to the Coordinator of Bereavement Services.