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Man Hug With A Newbie

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Grief support groups. Gotta love em’.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have told you I would want to attend a group like this. I’m used to be a pretty shutoff valve kind of guy. Shy, distant, and not very social.

Things have change. My life has changed. I was mentored for the longest time to come out of my shell.

My grief support group happens every Tuesday night at 6:30 local time here in Tempe. It takes place in a room inside the recreation center. It’s kind of funny sometimes because the room we often use, I can see people shooting pool, laughing, and working out on the treadmill or elliptical machine, going up and down.

And here we are, talking about depressing stuff while others live their life.

But I sit there and listen. I sit there and talk. I feel this is my workout. My elliptical machine. I have to use it in order to feel better, keep myself healthy and sane.

This is also where we do “man hugs”.

Each time a visitor arrives, we all have to place $1.00 into the Subway Sandwiches big cup. It costs money to rent the room so the money collected is a needed necessity.

This past Tuesday, there was a “newbie” there.

To protect his identity, I will just say he is weeks out from his wife passing. We go around the room in a clockwise fashion and say our “Challenges” and “Victories” for the week. I was surprised this guy was here. It only happened a few weeks back. It took me almost a year to get to a support group. I give him A LOT of credit.

When he was done saying what he had to say, I looked over to my left, and I just kind of did the limited ”man hug” with a hand going to his upper back and patting it a few times, not saying a word. But I hope with my man hug, he knows he’s not alone. Remember, it is hard to do a man hug when sitting down!

I remember the man that did my first man hug the first time I said something in this group.

Hopefully he will keep going to the groups. I know I will. It keeps me from losing my way…

What’s an activity that keeps you from losing your mind?

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My husband, Dick, has been dead for over three years and I am still struggling. I swore to myself that I would NOT go to one of those Widows Grief Groups. I was not going to go into a room full of OLD ladies "whining" about losing their mates of 60 or 70 years. I could not imagine that a Widows Grief Group would have anything to offer or help me. I was only 61 years old when my 64 year old husband died and we had only been married 39 years. How could they possibly understand?

Several months ago, after much coaxing from a couple of widow friends at the church, I finally went to a Women's Group at the local Hospice office. Much to my surprise, I was not the youngest woman there and you know what? I was not the only one there who was still struggling after three years. One thing that really surprised me is that out of the 14 ladies there, 5 of us lost our husbands on the same day, same year. Is that freaky or what? February 25, 2008 was a very bad day!

Here's how the meetings have helped me:

Caused me to look outside my grief and realize that my grief is my own, but it is not unique.

All grief is terrible. I don't get a medal.

All loneliness is overwhelming and totally encompassing.

No one can make it better FOR me. I have to do the work.

The work is not easy, but it has to be done if I am going to do anything worthwhile with the rest of my life.

I DO have something to offer the world. I am not totally sure what that is, but it is something I have to find.

Missing Dick is easier to deal with if it is shared with other women/men who understand and miss their other half.

It's OK to cry. I looked around and I am not the ugliest person on the planet when I cry. There are actually people who look worse then I do!

I could go on and on.

If you have been hesitating to go to a group for support or have been to one and not had a great experience, don't give up. Find a group and go and participate. Generally there is laughter mixed with tears and I sure feel better when I leave.

God Bless!


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Guest Nicholas

You Americans (and Canadians, oops) are so much "better" at all this grief stuff, groups, etc - we Brits don't seem to go in for it much, centuries of being told to never show our emotions in public, don't even know if such groups exist over here!


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That's funny, Nicholas...I'm mostly English but think I favor the bit of Irish that's in me instead...it must have been dominant even though wee. My son, on the other hand, is English and Italian with a bit of other stuff mixed in and OMG if he doesn't come out English! No showing emotion! We called him "little man" when he was a baby, he was always stoic and honestly, I was about to have him tested for Autism when we finally glimpsed a smile that saved us a co-pay. I remember telling his football coach how much he loved football and his coach said "Really? You couldn't tell it by his expressions..." I told him I'm his mother, I've learned to read every slight influction, and it's true.

James...you are doing what we've learned comes from all of this...to let what we've been through cause us to have empathy for others in the same boat and spread some of the caring around. You've learned to reach out to someone else for their own sake. I realize it comes easier for some than others, some are raised not to show emotion, others let it all hang out, but to go beyond what we were raised with and do for the good of someone else, well that's what it's all about!

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It is amazing how going to a grief sharing group can help. The one I went to had spouses and grown children in groups. I learned so much about myself, and how to cope with my feelings.Just being able to share your pain and frustration with others helps temendously.

Nicholas, maybe you could think about starting a grief sharing group with people from your faith/church. It would give you a purpose as well as being beneficial to anyone that attended.Just a thought.


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Dear James,

I am sorry for your loss. You ask about an activity that keeps you from losing your mind. Some of mine are journaling; painting; working on my book that I will get published one day; volunteering ~ an animal shelter, a long term care facility, a woman's centre; spending time by the water where my soul feels well fed.

Self-care is vitally important; rest, food, water, some exercise. This path of grief is one that tends to deplete our energy so we need to remember to refuel our self.

Blessings and Courage, Carol Ann

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