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What Are Bereavement Groups?

Bereavement groups, also known as grief support groups, provide support, education, and therapy to individuals and families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. The structure of grief support groups can vary significantly, as can their focus. Some are led by mental health professionals, others operate on a self-help basis, and some are led by religious leaders. In some cases, a group may focus on meeting the needs of people who have experienced a recent loss, while others may be composed of people who have been coping with their loss for many years. Groups may also focus on specific types of bereavement, with some groups offering support to parents, spouses, and even pet owners.

For many people, coping with the death of a beloved friend, family member, or animal companion is a frightening and lonely journey. Bereavement groups can provide the grieving with a safe space to talk about their experiences and receive support and guidance from others who have gone through a similar experience. While some groups operate primarily as peer support, in some cases licensed mental health workers facilitate groups that operate more as group therapy. As death and life after death are issues often addressed by religious and spiritual beliefs, some groups meet in houses of worship and may be facilitated by clergy or religious leaders.

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In many cases, bereavement groups are segregated according to the nature of the loss experienced by participants and by the length of time a participant has been grieving. This type of segregation often occurs because some types of bereavement are unique, and individuals who are grieving may feel most comfortable expressing feelings with others who are grieving a very similar loss. As time passes, people frequently go through various stages of bereavement and may feel very differently after several months or years than in the initial stages of grief. As such, some organizations that sponsor bereavement groups may offer separate meetings for people who experienced a loss that took place some time ago and for those who are newly bereaved.

Some groups exist to serve friends and family members of the dying. These are often sponsored by hospice services and can help individuals make the most of their time left with a loved one and express their feelings and fears. These groups can also operate as transitional groups, meeting the needs of family members and offering consistent support, even after their loved one passes.

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