Grief Support Groups Help Seniors Heal and Remember, “I’m not alone”

When Annie’s husband, Dennis, passed away she was initially overcome with sorrow. For five years Dennis had suffered from Alzheimer’s, and Annie, 78, had been his loving primary caregiver. He was the focus of her life just as he had been for over 50 years. Now that Dennis was gone Annie suddenly felt lost and unsure how to move forward with life on her own.

Months after his death, Annie wasn’t coping well—sleep was elusive and she had lost her appetite. Dennis’ death brought more than just sadness and grief for Annie. It emerged that Dennis had left their estate planning out-of-order before the onset of his dementia, leaving Annie with many loose ends and debts to resolve. Annie was angry, but she didn’t dare tell anyone how she felt. She loved Dennis, how could she be angry with him?

Senior women

A friend suggested that Annie might benefit from some sort of grief support and Annie decided to call Seniors At Home, because she had received helpful support and advice through consultations with the Center for Dementia Care during the last year of her husbands’ life. Annie was hesitant, but signed up for a Grief Support Group unsure whether she could be comfortable discussing her feelings in front of others. At the first meeting she listened to group members share and tell their stories and Annie finally realized that she was not alone in struggling with her confusing set of emotions.

The Power of Shared Experience

Coping with the loss of a loved one may be one of the hardest experiences we face in our lifetime, as well as one of the loneliest. Rabbi Daniel Isaacson, the Director of Seniors At Home’s Spiritual Care Services and a facilitator of Seniors At Home’s Grief Support Group, says, “Grief is in its nature an isolating experience, and many people don’t realize that what they are experiencing is normal or okay. They are often afraid to reach out and to talk about what they’re feeling. It can be especially difficult for seniors who are losing many of their friends and loved ones as they age.”

Seniors At Home encourages anyone who is suffering a loss to seek the support they need when they are grieving, by offering both individual counseling and Grief Support Groups to people of all faiths who are dealing with any type of loss.

The Grief Support Group is offered for eight-week sessions in the Spring and Fall (sign up for May’s group here), and it allows individuals to explore the emotional, spiritual, and psychological aspects of the grieving process in a safe and supportive environment. The group is co-facilitated by Rabbi Isaacson and Roz Leiser, RN, a professional bereavement counselor, and it focuses on the importance of talking, sharing stories, and creating a sense of community among everyone in the group.

Rabbi Isaacson says, “A group setting has tremendous value because it helps people who are bereaved to normalize what doesn’t feel like a ‘normal’ experience. We create a community—a surrogate family—to support one another, alleviate the pain of isolation, and create a renewed sense of hope.”

Moving Forward

Through the grief support group, Annie learned that it was okay to experience anger and it was actually a very common emotion after a loss. With this understanding, she was finally able to move through her anger and face all of the other emotions she was experiencing as part of the grieving process.

Annie’s disposition began to lighten as a weight lifted. She says, “It was so helpful to share my feelings in a safe place. I made new friends and our experiences are so similar.” In fact, now that the eight weeks are over, Annie and the other group members chose to continue to meet on their own to catch-up and support each other. Annie is optimistic about living the rest of her life and ready to move forward.

If you are someone you or someone you know is struggling, call us on 415-449-3777

The Spring San Francisco Grief Support Group begins on Wed., May 4, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, for eight consecutive Wednesdays. This group is suitable for anyone who has suffered a loss, regardless of age, faith, or relation to your loved one. Find out more the May Grief Support series and other upcoming events here.