When I met Hanna Kluner at one of my first grief groups, I sensed that she was a wise, kind, encouraging, inspirational, and authentic individual. It turns out that she was also instrumental in pulling me up and out of the deepest darkest pit of grief & trauma that I had fallen into. Hanna wasn’t a grief group participant. She was the facilitator. And if I could replicate Hanna and sprinkle her gifts around the world, I would. This woman has helped me- and so many others- heal in ways that are extraordinary and immeasurable. One invaluable tool that Hanna uses to help others (like me) move forward on their journey after loss is GROUP SUPPORT.
In the following essay, Hanna Kluner- Grief Recovery Method facilitator, Somatic Experiencing practitioner and Phoenix Rising Yoga therapist- uncovers the enormous healing benefits of GROUP SUPPORT.
The Value of a Grief Group
Only in an open, nonjudgmental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we’re not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with them and communicate with them properly.
~ Pema Chodron
How important is connection when working through grief? To me this is one of the most vital ingredients in moving through and beyond your world of grief and returning to a vibrant life not yet imagined. Often one’s tendency might be to isolate, and disconnect from others which only adds to the suffering of a griever. In this blog I will offer some important thoughts on the benefits of staying connected with others. There are many different ways of doing this, and the one that I will focus on is a healing group specifically designed for moving beyond loss.
First, if you are reading this blog, it is clear to me that you are reaching out for help, so congratulations for taking action to support your process. I would like to share with you that what I am writing comes from my own personal experience of loss. I suffered the sudden loss of my husband in 2000. He was only 45 years old. When he died I was left with two teenagers (13 and 15) along with no clue as to how to navigate my way through this immeasurable devastation. What I did know was that I was willing to do whatever it took to heal so that my children would not lose me as well.
After some research, I came across a 3-day grief workshop called the The Grief Recovery Method (TGRM) offered through The Grief Recovery Institute (www.griefrecoverymethod.com). It was there that I learned the power of a group. I learned the importance of being vulnerable and the value of being open to receive. These were not qualities that came easily to me but they were the qualities that I knew I must develop if I really was going to commit to my own personal healing. I also learned that it not only takes good information about grief but also a community to support the grieving process. The Grief Recovery Method offers both of these things.
What is The Grief Recovery Method? How is it different than a support group? These are questions you might be asking yourself. Although a grief support group may be really helpful to some, it is not designed as a therapeutic modality. It is really a place to share your loss with others who are also going through a healing process. Sometimes it is led by a therapist and other times not. The purpose is to help you connect to a community that has also suffered a loss and can relate to the present world you are living in. This could be very beneficial, as it a place where you might feel a sense of belonging as well as a sense of being understood.
In contrast, The Grief Recovery Method is a program designed specifically to help you move beyond your loss as well as offering you the opportunity to complete any previous losses in your life that might be incomplete. A previous loss that might not have been worked through can interfere with the natural healing of your most recent loss. This program has a deliberate focus and direction and will assist you in releasing some of the pain caused by your most recent loss so that you can move forward with more awareness.
In The Grief Recovery Method you will learn that grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss. It’s not a pathological condition. You will learn to uncover all the myths that society holds as truth around loss, such as “grieve alone” or “don’t cry”. By identifying our negative conditioning around grief and replacing it with healthier beliefs, we offer ourselves the space and permission to grieve without judgment. You will also learn many helpful tools that will undeniably assist you in your healing journey. Not only will it be invaluable for you in moving beyond your most recent loss, but it will help you identify places that perhaps you have unconsciously blocked yourself from a full recovery in previous losses. You will also be better equipped in the future to handle other situations if they arise. The Grief Recovery Method is a powerful program designed to help you identify your own old beliefs about dealing with loss and assist you in taking new action which will lead to the completion of the pain attached to a loss and move forward with more clarity and motivation.
Besides all the practical tools you will learn and the healing that will happen as you cultivate more self awareness there is another very important benefit of being in a group. It is crucial in life to have a sense of belonging and connection even when we are not dealing with a crisis, but when we are in crisis the importance of cultivating this for yourself becomes an extremely critical ingredient in moving forward and beyond your loss. These connections can offer you the life line that is needed in any given moment, they can offer you a sense hope, a sense of well being and offer you a community that cares about you and your personal journey.
Being a part of a group like this also offers you the opportunity to move beyond your own world of grief and be able to help someone else. This can help you experience life outside your own tragedy, expanding your world to something beyond yourself. You might then be in a place that you may begin to discover qualities about yourself that you quite like and didn’t know existed. A strength that remained a stranger to you until now, you might even begin to see the slightest hint of a new life. The value of a group is immeasurable and these relationships may be only there to assist you to move forward during this period of time or these relationships may continue to be a vital part of your life forever.
Most importantly, the experience of doing group work will guide you to a more empowered version of you. I urge you to take that next step, to find a group that feels like the right fit for you. You might be drawn to check out the one I spoke of in this article (The Grief Recovery Method) but also do your own research. Please give group work a try. You will see the benefits are enormous. I wish you all the best in your healing journey.
Hanna Kluner is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist and a facilitator of The Grief Recovery Method. She has a private practice in Boston, MA as well as in San Diego, CA.