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The Importance of Grief Support Groups: Q&A With Cornerstone of Hope

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Grief_Support_GroupsIf you’re experiencing grief following the loss of a loved one, you don’t have to go at it alone. A support group can help.

In Northeast Ohio, there are many grief support groups offering bereavement care and comfort. Some even offer individual counseling services to help people cope with the physical, mental and emotional responses to loss. 

To gain a deeper understanding of these services and the potential benefits from participation in support groups, we spoke with Julia Ellifritt, LISW-S, the Program Director at Cornerstone of Hope. Having served as a grief counselor for the past 34 years, Julia has helped thousands of people throughout their grief journey.

Continue reading below to learn why Julia feels grief support groups can be an important part of the healing process for the bereaved.

“While there’s no one right way to deal with grief, a support group can help the bereaved connect with others who’ve experienced similar loss.”

Q: What are the benefits of grief support groups? 

Support groups normalize the grief process. During periods of intense grief, people often think they’re going crazy, but it’s okay to feel a wide array of emotions. Going to a support group often normalizes the grief process and helps people feel that what they’re experiencing is to be expected—hard, but expected.

Q: Why do you believe the bereaved should join a support group? 

Not every bereaved person needs the additional support of a group outside their circle of family and friends. For example, anticipatory deaths can generally be less devastating than unexpected deaths. While loss is still very sad, how the death happens can affect how we go through the grief process.

At Cornerstone of Hope, trauma makes up nearly 50% of the people we serve. So the people in need of counseling have likely experienced a horrific trauma.

Q: What topics are covered in a support group?

Support groups cover a range of topics. At Cornerstone of Hope, members process grief by sharing personal stories, asking and answering questions about memorialization, and identifying healthy and unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Depending on the type of death, topics may differ. For example, members who have lost a loved one to suicide or overdose have to first learn how to process the trauma before they’re able to deal with grief.

Q: Do you see more individuals or families joining support groups? 

Statistics alone would say more individuals, but Cornerstone of Hope offers support groups for families. One group, Families Living in Grief and Healing Together (FLIGHT), is specifically designed for families that are grieving the loss of a loved one. Families are divided into different groups to ensure the curriculum is age appropriate.

Q: What age group tends to take advantage of support groups the most? 

For the most part, adults (between the ages of 45 to 60) are more likely to ask for help than kids.

A child will join a support group when a parent or guardian identifies unhealthy coping skills or regressive behaviors. For instance, the child may be acting out in school or wetting the bed at home. When this happens, they may enroll their child in a support group. Cornerstone has many areas in their bereavement center that cater to children and teens, including a game room and steam room (a padded room where kids can punch the walls and let off steam). 

Q: Is there a particular time of year individuals feel more compelled to join a support group? 

People join groups throughout the year, as loss happens throughout the year. However, the holidays can be a difficult time to navigate. Holidays are built around traditions, and traditions usually include families. When a family member is missing, traditions may change, which can be hard for the bereaved. This is why we see more people joining support groups around the holidays

Cornerstone of Hope encourages its members to honor their loved ones by keeping up with holiday traditions. This helps the bereaved feel connected to the deceased even after they’re gone. 

Q: What types of support groups does Cornerstone of Hope offer?

Cornerstone of Hope offers roughly 15 support groups per quarter. They’re organized by type of loss, including, but not limited to: 

  • Accidental overdose loss
  • Child loss
  • Complicated loss
  • Murder loss
  • Perinatal/Infant loss
  • Spouse loss
  • Suicide loss
  • TAPS loss (Assistance for anyone who has lost a military loved one)

While several great organizations in the community offer general support groups, Cornerstone of Hope believes in grouping individuals based on the type of loss.

For more grief support resources, reach out to Cornerstone of Hope. If they do not have the support resource you need, they are very well connected to the grief support network in the area.

Image credit: Unsplash 


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