How to Facilitate a Grief Support Group

Grief support can fill the emptiness that comes with loss.

Talking with others who have experienced the same kind of loss--losing a parent, child or spouse--can help individuals navigate their grief. To facilitate a grief support group is to bring your experiences with grief and your compassionate attention to others who gather to find their balance. According to the American Hospice Foundation, your ability to recognize another person's symptoms of grief, your responses as one who also has experienced grief and your willingness to listen, form crucial components in a healthy grief support.

Grief can be an isolating experience.

Begin by getting in touch with your own experiences of grief. Inventory how you encountered your emotions over the course of time. Note physical issues, such as sleep problems, impaired cognition and loss of appetite. According to the authors of "Responding to the Grieving Client," on the American Hospice Foundation website, you must prepare yourself as a grief counselor. If you have not worked through difficulties surrounding your grief, you need to become aware of that truth and leave your conflict out of the group support arena.

Give the mourner's grief a name. Friends and family may hesitate to say words such as "death," "dead" or the person's name. "Responding to the Grieving Client," recommends that a grief counselor compassionately confront the sufferer's loss. For example, a grief support group facilitator might say to a group member, "I am sorry to hear that your sister, Lana, died."

Give your implicit permission for support group members to recall memories of their lost loved ones. If a member seems hesitant, say to her that you know she must be experiencing many powerful memories. Then give her the opportunity to share her feelings. If she resists, move on. Do not try to force a grieving person to fit an imposed idea of what you think she should do.

Refrain from trying to "fix" people who are struggling with loss. According to "Responding to the Grieving Client," you must be clear with yourself and members of a grief support group that you are not a therapist. You are a facilitator. It is unhealthy to think you can make people better. Be alert, too, for support group members who want to give you their burdens. Neither of these scenarios can lead to any good result. State your role up front and stick to it.

Watch for signs that a member of your group is in deep trouble. "Responding to the Grieving Client" lists warning signs that include, but are not limited to, drug or alcohol abuse, obsession with death or suicidal thoughts, and cognitive changes.

Alyson Paige has a master's degree in canon law and began writing professionally in 1998. Her articles specialize in culture, business and home and garden, among many other topics.