In Middle Tennessee, Alive Hospice is highly regarded for its quality of care and its intentionally built wrap-around services. Alive Hospice is all about serving its community in its deepest needs and this week we highlight their grief support groups. Below is our conversation with Alissa Drescher, Grief Center director for Alive, and we discuss what you need to know about Alive’s grief support and how they cater to many unique grief journeys.
- Why are grief support groups important? Support groups are so important for those grieving because as a society we are so virtual and disconnected from face to face interactions, and support groups provide that human connection we need when we are grieving. We also have a society that requires us to return to life as quickly as possible after a loss, and we don’t have the time to fully process our grief. It can be so isolating. Support groups create a space where your experiences can be normalized by hearing about other people’s grief experiences. For instance, if people in the group are using the same words that you are thinking in your head, it can be so cathartic and powerful. A lot of our groups are loss specific for this reason, which means there is a chance that people will connect more because their experiences may look the same. People from all walks of life are coming together because of their loss situation and we have seen so many unexpected friendships form because of this.
- Can you tell us more about how you organize your groups at Alive and what is the time commitment? (1) We have 8 week groups (with licensed counselor facilitation) that are closed and are time-limited. These 8 weeks groups are a cohort model so the same people who start in the group will also end together. These groups are also loss specific for things like spouse loss, child loss, parent loss, etc. The reason we do loss specific groups is because when loss is recent and grief is acute, our support group participants tend to get more out of the experience if it is a loss specific group. We do also have a more general group for loss of a loved one. (2) We also have a 1x per month open groups (with a licensed counselor and volunteer blended facilitation) and we have a different combination of people in these groups because people can attend when they can and are not a cohort model. If someone’s loss isn’t timed right with the start of an 8 week series, we will recommend they start in our open groups. These are also organized by loss-we have open groups focused on the following:-Pregnancy and infant loss; Sudden loss such as suicide, homicide, or drug related death; Family group is a group that brings together adults and children grieving. They have dinner together and have big group activity. Children meet together and the adults meet separately; Little Hearts Club club is for preschoolers and their guardians
- When should some look to start a grief support group after a loss? It’s so individualized. I will say, though, when your heart is broken, it doesn’t have a lot of room to carry other peoples’ pain. If you start a group the same month as your loss, it is a lot of burden to take on in addition to your own. We typically see people start to attend at the 3-6 month mark after a loss. For anyone who wants participate in a group, we first talk with them 1:1 to make sure they would benefit from the groups. Sometimes we can catch people before they are ready and that is beneficial to both the person and the group participants.
- What do you wish people knew about Alive support groups? 60% of our participants come from Alive families, but we serve anyone. You do not need to come from a hospice situation to join one of our groups.
- What do you see is a common misconception of grief? That grief comes in a predictable model. Even with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s 5 Stages of Grief model, they have never been able to back up the model with reliable outcomes. There is this notion that grief is supposed to look one specific way, and that is a myth. Our grief will be as unique as we are. It is all a normal and natural way to react to loss. We want people to fit into specific categories and know if someone is ok or not ok, but it helps to remember that it is ok to be sad and suffering and longing for our person, and we don’t need to rush through. A lot of beautiful things can come out of the deep sadness.
Thanks so much to Alissa for this great information!
Below is more information about Alive Hospice and their support groups:
We provide loving care to people with life-threatening illnesses, support to their families and service to the community in a spirit of enriching lives.
More About Alive
Alive Hospice is a nonprofit organization that provides compassionate end-of-life care, palliative care, bereavement support and community education. Founded in Middle Tennessee in 1975, Alive Hospice is accredited by The Joint Commission and has held its Gold Seal of Approval for many years. It is also accredited by the National Institute for Jewish Hospices.
Alive Hospice entered the Middle Tennessee landscape in November 1975, only one year after the founding of the first hospice program in the United States. At the time, and through grassroots movements, other hospices also began appearing across the country. Like the group of individuals gathered together by Alive Hospice’s founders, Dr. David Barton and the late Dr. John Flexner, what unified those movements was compassionate people committed to helping patients live in comfort until death occurred and families to grieve with support.
Alive Hospice was chartered in 1975 as a nonprofit organization dedicated with three core goals: providing comprehensive care for terminally ill patients and their families; offering support for grieving adults and children; and serving the community as a center for research and education.
Today, Alive Hospice serves more than 3,600 patients and their families annually (more than 430 daily) and provides grief support services for nearly 600 adults and children in Middle Tennessee in addition to training for tomorrow’s caregivers and education for the community at large.
For anyone interested in Alive’s support groups in Middle TN, the griefline is available for you
Alive Griefline: 615-963-4732