Catholic Grief Group

Embracing Community: The Power of Catholic Grief Groups

It’s not uncommon, especially in the early stages of grief, to retreat and want to be alone, and there is nothing wrong with this. As Catholics, we are not unfamiliar with retreating in prayer. Jesus did it all the time. We call this contemplation, and it is absolutely necessary to help us regulate and reconnect to the deeper parts of ourselves as we connect to God in the healing space of solitude.

However, if we follow Jesus’ contemplative journey, it was not confined to solitude. Turning inward, when juxtaposed with turning towards others, in community, was the pattern of Jesus’ life as he prayed in preparation to serve. We, too, can reorient our grief journey from a place of solitude to interaction so that the feeling of aloneness in grief can be punctuated by moments of aliveness; relieved by the knowing that we are part of a bigger picture in which we all experience love and loss.

But how do we do this? How do we leave our dark space of aloneness that feels so safe and right, to move gently into the reality of the outside world? First and foremost, we have to do this in our own time. In grief, timing is personal; you are the timekeeper. Remaining true to yourself with regards to timing and the choice of support can be a way to claim your own power in what is a completely disempowering situation. Claiming our power in grief, is a significant milestone along the way.

Catholic Support Groups for Grief

A group, rather than one on one conversations, can also be enormously beneficial to support your grief journey. One of the biggest advantages to a Catholic grief group is that you hear your story in other people’s stories, which can be a great consolation and provide you with a sense of belonging.  That you are not the only one feeling the way that you feel can be liberating and also place your experience of grief, albeit very unique and personal, in the context of a human experience. That the suffering of loss is part of being human, and is bittersweet, because without the experience of deep love, which was so wonderful while your loved one was alive, you would not feel the deep pain of loss, which is grief.

Individual Catholic grief groups offer unique themes and services so that you can choose which would suit your particular situation best. For example, there can be groups that cater specifically to men in grief, parents in grief and siblings in grief. They can be for losing your spouse or partner and they can be more general, for loss of a loved one.

  • Parishes offer spiritual consolation to groups that embraces the traditions and teachings of our Catholic faith. This can be so symbolic and significant alongside other rituals when mourning the death of a loved one.
  • Groups outside of the parish can also be enormously helpful for those who want to seek spiritual grief support in groups, but that may wish to do so outside of the Parish context.
  • Seasons for Growth is an education grief support group for children. It is designed to build resilience and it can be delivered to children both in schools and through community-based services. Stormbirds is an adaptation of seasons for growth in which children are encouraged to adapt to situations and circumstances where emotional challenges and significant change can be potentially destabilising.

The Value of sharing in groups

One of the most beautiful aspects of sharing in a group whilst on the grief journey is that you are understood by other people who are all going through the common experience of loss. This has the benefit of building relationships with people who understand and can validate how you feel which can be very relieving. Support, whether one on one or in a group is never about taking away your grief, this is not only impossible, but not desirable. Sadness and pain come with the territory of loss, and so the intention of being in a group with these feelings is to feel that you are allowed to have them and to know that you are not alone.

Finding a group that shares your own spiritual path is also helpful as our deeper beliefs and values are inextricably woven into our grief story. In a Catholic grief group, those values will be embedded in the structure of the sessions, which will generally include some reflection on the scriptures as well as prayer, mediation and times of quiet reflection.