By: Leah Hovey
Losing someone you love can completely break you. Logically, we all know that at some point we will all die, but dealing with the idea that you will never see your loved one again is one of the hardest things anyone could encounter.
After a loss, it is very common for an individual to feel alone and misunderstood. However, if one has a reliable support system and various methods of peer support, it can it easier to cope with grief and loss. Having a good support system can be crucial for many individuals. As brilliantly articulated by a peer support program called The Seasons Center, having social judgment, "or lack of ability to publicly acknowledge the death [is] detrimental to the grief process” (2017). By refusing to acknowledge an individual’s death we can unknowingly shame individuals who are grieving, it can cause one to bottle their feelings up and internalize stress severely impacting one’s mental health. This is why peer support or peer intervention is so crucial to the grieving process.
The groups around us help us manage stress and conflicts daily, so when it comes to grieving it is no surprise that the majority of grieving individuals turn to the support of individuals who are primarily around them. This includes family, friends and spouses (Aoun et al., 2018). John Bowlby, an influential psychiatrist, created the Attachment Theory which has been used to help explain why individuals need group support after experiencing a death. Bowlby states that the support from the primary groups around an individual is severely important especially for those who are isolating themselves from others. Those around a grief-stricken individual should be comforted by the knowledge of having a strong support system (Holmes, 2014). There are many ways one can help others through a grieving period, and I've outlined some throughout this article.
The people closest to you are not the only options for support after a death. Humans have a natural ability to form groups and stick within them. When one person leaves a group involuntarily, this affects the group dynamic severely. When a group is distressed due to the loss of a member, there may be a need for outside support (GPIR, 2018).
Research has as well indicated that public health supports (i.e. support groups, therapeutic resources as well as compassionate community policies and practices) need to be more readily available, as many individuals feel they can only turn to those closest to them as opposed to seeking professional help. (Aoun et al., 2018) While having the support from the people around you can help, there are some aspects of advice, therapy and medical recommendations that friends don’t have the authority or knowledge to make.
It is strongly recommend to seek professional help if you are severely impacted by the loss of someone dear to you. Many of us have faced losses in life that really affect us, especially at a young age. By going to a therapist who specializes in bereavement, you will find that you are able to express your emotions, guilt, anger, and sadness to a professional who not only will validate how you are feeling but will help you cope with the grief. While seeing a psychotherapist is encouraged, there are various options available for those who may be uncomfortable with therapy, are tight on money or want a group dynamic.
In the city of Vaughan, there is a hospice facility which offers various resources to individuals grieving a loss and provides peer support groups for those experiencing a loss. Going to a peer support group can be beneficial because you are surrounded by others who are going through similar situations. Guided by a professional, these sessions can help you understand you are not alone and can help you move through your grief.
More information here: https://www.hospicevaughan.com/services-and-programs/#grief
In the city of Toronto, there is a facility called BFO-Toronto. This company provides one-on-one trained counselling as initial support and then provides clients with group therapy sessions which you can participate in through an 8-week session or try drop-in groups. This center is highly recommended. Read more about it here: http://www.bfotoronto.ca/
Finally, in the city of Barrie, there is a facility called the Seasons Centre for Grieving Children that deals explicitly with young children who have lost those around them. Their approach is unique as trained volunteers help children work out their grief through an interactive play session. The kids really enjoy the playing aspect and are encouraged to open up and talk about their feelings. The parents are invited to join a peer support group that is held on sight to get help managing their various feelings while the kids play. For more information about this program go here: https://www.grievingchildren.com/
Stepping out of your comfort zone and accepting help from others is so very important for the process of grieving. Having people help you cope with the loss of your loved one will make it easier to navigate the world without them.
Aoun, S. M., Breen, L. J., White, I., Rumbold, B., & Kellehear, A. (2018). What sources of bereavement support are perceived helpful by bereaved people and why? Empirical evidence for the compassionate communities approach. Palliative medicine, 0269216318774995.
Attig, T. (2011). How We Grieve: Relearning the World
GPIR (2018). Group Processes & Intergroup Relations,21(2), 368-370. doi:10.1177/1368430217744103
Holmes, J. (2014). John Bowlby and attachment theory. Routledge.