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Grieving with others who get it
Date published: 11/29/2009
Jim and Lynne Eppes lost their daughter, Marie, to cancer at the end of July 2006.
About a month later, the Stafford County couple were invited to a grief support group sponsored by Mary Washington Hospice.
Neither thought they needed the help. Jim went anyway. Lynne did not.
"In some ways, I'm a very private person. I wasn't comfortable. I wasn't able to deal with it," said Lynne, who would wait another two years before joining the support group at her husband's urging.
What she found was the freedom to grieve in her own way alongside others who understood the magnitude of her loss.
Nobody squirmed uncomfortably when she talked about Marie, an oncology nurse who was 26 when she died.
No one offered the meaningless platitudes so many others had in the wake of her daughter's death.
No one tried to convince her everything would be OK. They simply listened.
"Nobody tells me what I should think. Nobody fixes anything for me. I have to deal with that myself," said Lynne, who attends the group's Thursday meetings with Jim. "But we respect each other's feelings. The Kleenex is always there."
THE NEED TO HEAL
Joy is easy to share, and even anger generally has a clear target. But grief, one of the rawest human emotions, is often expressed in private.
The temptation to hide it or even ignore it all together is strong, perhaps because it makes us so vulnerable.
But experts say the act of confronting that grief and sharing it with others can heal a person mentally, emotionally and even physically.
"I'm a big fan of groups. It normalizes the grief process for the people there," said Julie Cicero, a licensed clinical social worker in Washington state.
She joined the profession and authored "Waking Up Alone: Grief and Healing" after losing her husband in a snowmobiling accident in 2001.
"Even if you have a great support system around you, people who haven't been there just don't get it," Cicero said. "You generally get two reactions. You get people who run from you because they think it's catchable, whatever you have, and the other ones are the ones who are trying to fix it. That doesn't work either.
"Really, you just need someone to be present with you."