My biggest pet peeve through my grief journey has been people telling me what I should or should not be doing. The random things people suggest make my hair stand on end. But that will have to be a blog for another day. The one SHOULD I wish I would have listened to much earlier than I did, was the suggestion that I find a grief support group. Having been through alcohol rehab after my husband died and spending many hours in daily support groups over the course of my 31-day mini vacation, I was no stranger to support groups. But for some reason I did need not think I needed a grief support group. Now that I was sober and able to feel my feelings I was going to get through my grief journey just fine, my way and no one else’s.
Well, here’s my story… Jim died on September 25th, 2009. I spent the next five months in an alcohol induced coma to ease the pain. I entered rehab on March 3rd, 2010, the day after I had to put one of our four dogs to sleep. I came home from rehab on April 4th and was flying high, happy, sober and free. I had trips planned with friends in June and July. I was excited to start living again. My CRASH & BURN came in August. I spent the month in isolation, rarely leaving my house except to see a psychiatrist and psychologist. The depression, anxiety, and panic attacks were unbearable. The psychiatrist explained that I was finally grieving. I was finding out that there is no way out of or around grief – the only way out is through. Anti-depressants weren’t working and I didn’t like the side effects, yet talking to the psychologist was encouraging and very helpful.
One day in September I was reading my local neighborhood newspaper, which I do every week, and my mouth dropped when I saw an ad for WIDOWED to WIDOWED Support Group. It took me three days to call the number. Kay answered the phone and was very friendly. The group was new with only four people. She shared the circumstances of the others spouse’s deaths and told me to come. It took another three weeks for me to get the courage to show up, which ended up being THE best decision I could have made. I learned that one woman named Kathy, a new widow, was my neighbor and lived five houses down the street!
Our small group of five has now grown to over 231 in less than two years. We have three meetings a week and I help facilitate. I would not be where I am today without the support of my new friends. We have a bond like no other and I know many of these wonderful friends will be in my life forever. I feel grateful and blessed and tell them all often. The support group is a warm place of comfort. We “GET IT.”
On the roller coaster ride of grief you never know when a BURST is going to hit you, and when it does I now have a network of friends that I can call who listen and understand. Family and friends who have not been through this journey do not understand nor do they want to listen to me talk about it or share my thoughts, feelings, and struggles. There is nothing like being in a room with others who understand your pain, who have been there, and who don’t offer advice but listen and normalize us. There is a huge value of being in a support group of people that have suffered the same loss. We all have a story and we need to tell our stories until we are tired of telling them. It’s all part of the healing process. In a support group you will find people that are willing to listen and allow you to heal – in your time and no one else’s.
“It’s important for people experiencing trauma to have permission to do what they must do to become who they must become.”
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore
Author Bio: My Name is Tracy Poulos. I am 50 years old, and a cancer widow. Jim was 49 when he lost his courageous battle with Esophageal Cancer on 9.25.09. We were together for seventeen years, and married for twelve. The minute I met Jim I knew he was the one. It was love at first sight. We had four Shih Tzu’s, and two have since joined their Dad in heaven. Jim was a loyal, humble, giving man and I miss him everyday. I retired from Advertising Sales in 2005. I spend my time volunteering, helping the newly widowed, and educating the public about grief. I consider myself a self-taught expert on grief, having read over 25 books on the subject of Widowhood & Grief. My two buddies, Bug and Baby, and I live in Phoenix and San Diego. I enjoy cooking, baking, reading, travel, walking, hiking, and biking. I am grateful and blessed for the seventeen years I had with Jim and what he taught me about life. His death has changed me profoundly. Life is about people and relationships and helping one another – it’s not about the stuff.
“Caring about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.” Harold Kushner rabbi, author