Welcome to the club

I made it to my first drop in support group after my first day back in the office. Two big challenges in one day.

The office wasn’t too bad. I was ready for it. I fielded a few condolences without losing it. I met with a few people and carefully steered those conversations onto safe, business territory. I saw the colleague I had run into on my walk a couple of weeks back. He’d heard I was leaving but not why. I filled him so he’d know why I was acting oddly that day. Lunch with the team was nice but  it was strange to have a good-bye event where the reason is so sad. I packed up  my stuff before I left (forgetting to bring the box home) and avoided tearful good bye’s by reminding people I’d be back again before I left officially.

I managed to make it back just in time for the support group. I wasn’t trying that hard – part of me was hoping I wouldn’t make it. There were eight of us in total, including a couple of friends who had come along to support someone else. This one was part information session and part moderated discussion. I recognized so many of my experiences in the informational portion – not just the emotion cycles but the inability to focus or make decisions, random actions, restlessness, the discomfort of bridging the gap in roles ‘they’ used to do, sleep disturbances, and time moving faster and slower. Almost everything was familiar.

I was right about it being easier to talk to people with a shared experience. Not in terms of crying, but in knowing they get it. And in an environment where everyone is grieving, the focus isn’t all on you. We all explained why we were there. That part was hard. We made a big dent in the tissue supply.  Losses included parents, siblings and spouses. One poor girl had experienced four losses within a year. Now she sees death around every corner, wondering who will be next.

The counsellor described the typical grieving process, described some practical coping strategies and had us share some of our own. I don’t know that I came away with a lot of new insights but it was helpful to know my experience has been typical and I appear to be steering as healthy a path as I can. We also got some tips on surviving the holidays and learned what I had already guessed was true – there are no short cuts. You just have to make time for the grief and move through it.

I need to decide whether to continue with formal support – either joining a group or getting a counselor. And since decisions are hard and I am very tired, that can wait for another day.

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