The death of a loved one causes grief, but the depth and effects of grief are different for everyone. Understanding that the way your grief manifests itself is uniquely yours and providing a caring, supportive and informative environment is the goal of Yolo Hospice’s Bereavement support groups.
The loss of significant people in your life, particularly a spouse or partner and parents, can leave you searching for your new place in life and dealing profound feelings of aloneness. Yolo Hospice has begun providing support groups with focus on these and other specific losses to better address such life-changing loss.
“Differences in grief still exist, but when you have support groups which focus on the type of loss, there is a greater commonality to the grief experience shared by the group,” said Denise Rose, Yolo Hospice bereavement services manager. “The people in the group truly ‘get’ what you’re talking about.”
* Spousal/Partner Loss Support Group: “Partner” is an accurate term for a spouse. A partner is someone you depend on for support of all kinds, share responsibilities and joys, make decisions with and count on to be there for you. When your partner or spouse dies, your loss is life-changing in unique ways and is the reason Yolo Hospice is beginning the new support group “Spouse/Partner Loss.”
Eileen Jaffe lost her husband three years ago. “I’m a relatively young widow and while I have wonderful friends and family, I didn’t have any contemporaries who were widows,” Jaffe said. “It was only recently I realized how alone it made me feel.”
Jaffe started attending one of Yolo Hospice’s five-week grief support groups.
“Everyone came with a unique story, but we’d talk about our husbands, our experience and how we were learning to cope,” she said. “Every time we met there was something I could take away with me. An unexpected and wonderful thing for me is that I found two other widows near my own age in that group.”
Jaffe and her two new friends plan to continue to meet to support one another even though their group has ended.
“Though their individual experiences were different, they share a like experience,” Rose said. “We hope to foster that like experience in our new support groups, and hope that others will find additional comfort and support in their shared loss.
* Parental Loss Support Group: Parents give us life, teach us values and place us on our path through life. Even as we become adults, we often use them as a touchstone of security in our individual worlds, whether we speak to them daily or irregularly. Sometimes we don’t realize how much we counted on their continued existence until they have died.
“When a parent dies who has been ill or is in their declining years, you can tell yourself, ‘it was to be expected,’ ” Rose said. “Yet, still we mourn the person and experiences we no longer have in our life.”
“I’m parentless now,” said Valeska Wise. “I’m not sure what that means except that I can’t call my dad anymore. He can’t call me. I won’t hear his voice anymore. It is hard to know that, even say it.”
Wise lost her mother some time ago and her father died in the past six months. She’s planning to attend Yolo Hospice’s new Parental Loss Support Group, which helps adults cope with the loss of one or both parents.
“I’m reading the book, ‘Tear Soup,’ ” Wise said. “The book talks about how losses in life can keep piling up and can seem overwhelming. The loss of my dad has made me think about my mother’s loss, too. It seems a good idea to explore my feelings so I’ve signed up for the support group.”
Yolo Hospice has created a wide array of special offering support groups to meet the needs of the community and to provide groups that facilitate the finding of others with like experience and commonalities in their loss. The Yolo Hospice website, www.yolohospice.org, has a list of these groups based on the type of loss. Please visit the site to see if Parent Loss Support Group and Spouse/Partner Loss or another listed group or workshop would be helpful to you.
Yolo Hospice has no-cost grief support groups available on a drop-in basis as well as groups devoted to specific issues such as those discussed here. Parent Loss Support Group and Spouse/Partner Loss groups are eight-week groups that begin in September. Call the Yolo Hospice bereavement department at 530-601-5756 for more information or visit www.yolohospice.org.
— Mary Odbert is Yolo Hospice’s public relations representative. Her column is published monthly.