Our meetings average 35 attendees. We break into three smaller groups and tighten the circles so we are knee-to-knee. We can now hear the soft voices of grievers, and we share a sense of closeness that is so important in the circle process. A newly bereaved may feel more comfortable and is more likely to share with a smaller group. The larger the group, the easier it is for the newly bereaved to disappear into silent tears and not share. One facilitator in each group guides the discussion and acts as a “gatekeeper” to ensure that each member has a chance to speak.
At a recent meeting, I found myself in a group of six “seasoned” grievers, three of whom were facilitators; a rare happening.
So . . . what do “seasoned” grievers talk about when in a small circle? What could possibly be said that the six of us have never discussed before? Our facilitator began by telling about her daughter’s art book that her teacher recently found. That led to discussing the book Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin, a young adult book with an unusual theme.
“It’s difficult to imagine my daughter at age 32, but I know what she looked like when she was eight!”
The subject was a springboard for sharing memories of enjoyable experiences. We were relaxed as we spoke of remembered events. We drifted rudderless, from one thought to another, until someone mentioned gravesite visitations.
A member told of trying to grow grass on his son’s grave but it always died. It turned out that some of his son’s friends regularly visited the site drinking beer . . .
Another member spoke of feeling comfortable celebrating Mother’s Day by having a beer while sitting next to his mother’s crypt.
We talked about pennies, dimes, and butterflies . . . We talked about “visits” by our children’s spirits.
There was laughter.
There were tears.
We spoke of loneliness and moments of closeness. Of most importance was the feeling of togetherness that this small group shared. We agreed that small-group experiences like this are the very heart of The Compassionate Friends!
At hour’s end, we all spoke our children’s names in unison: kennydrewsabrinaariellemercerrobert!
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