What I Learned from Going to a Grief Group

I was the first to arrive to the group and took a seat at the table. I had never been before and I was nervous. Being the first to be arrive with only 3 minutes to spare was unsettling. Soon, two other women arrived and introduced themselves. I started to feel more at ease. Before I knew it there were 5 other people sitting with me around a table, along with our counselor that had brought us together.

We started going around the room, each person telling their stories about the worst day of their lives. Lost spouses, drive-by shootings, murders, and cancer were the themes of the day. When the first woman began, I sat listening, but in my mind I wondered how I would get through it. Here I was, listening to this woman share her her deepest pain and darkest day with someone she had never even met. It felt wrong and uncomfortable. And there were 4 others left to go before my turn would come around. I began feeling incredibly insecure about my story and my place there. What was I supposed to offer to these people? How was I supposed to relate to this pain? I haven’t lost a spouse, or had cancer. Maybe I shouldn’t even be here, I thought.

Before I knew it, in just 2 hours this group became my family. And through these people, God showed me how much I needed other people to walk with and all the things that I had been missing on this journey of healing.

Listening to others share their pain is uncomfortable and necessary. There is nothing like listening to a women tell you the story of her 17 year old grandson being murdered in a drive-by shooting. But this is what I did. I had to sit with the tension and it was uncomfortable. It felt like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. It felt like I didn’t have right to hear it. But when it was over, we had both effectively engaged in part of the healing process that we all so desperately needed, but didn’t know how to do. Telling your story is hard. Listening to someone else’s is hard. But there is healing that comes with this and there is community that forms when you can simply acknowledge another’s pain without having to offer a solution. If we are to ever get into the deep places of community, this is where it starts.

We just need to show up. I came into this group with the incorrect assumption that I needed to be prepared or bring something with me; that I needed to offer something. The truth is that all I needed to do was show up. I often think of coming to Jesus in this way. That I need to get my stuff together or bring something special to offer to Him, when he just wants me to come and bring my mess with me and sit at his feet. Coming into this group, supporting each other during moments and leaning on each other during others, felt like Jesus. More things should feel like Jesus.

Grief can be a lonely road, but we don’t need to walk it by ourselves. I sat alone with grief for 2 years. I can’t count the times I googled “shooting survivor support group” in hopes that something would finally turn up. I didn't even list a location because I would have traveled as far as I had to. It never occurred to me that I could relate to people walking through different types of pain as well. None of the other members had survived a shooting, but they had been and are walking through incredible pain at the hands of tragedies that don’t make sense. We talked about loss, fear, pain, and our new normalcy (if there is such a thing) among so many other topics. We cried in the presence of one another and passed the tissues around the long wooden table. What we had in common trumped any differences we may have had.

When it was finally my turn to share my story, I sobbed through the whole thing and I hesitated to keep sharing. But when I felt a kind hand on my shoulder, there, in that place I felt completely safe to fall apart. I think that’s what I needed, but was completely unaware. I needed to know that it was okay to fall apart a little bit, because I had people around me to help put the pieces back together.

I witnessed, in the flesh, the Kingdom of God working as hands and feet of Jesus. And all I had to do was show up.