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Partner Loss support groups at Island Hospice & Healthcare in Zimbabwe

Author: Val Maasdorp, Clinical and Counselling Services Consultant, Island Hospice & Healthcare
06 June 2018

Each month Island Hospice & Healthcare’s Harare branch holds a Widowed/Partner Loss Support Group.

These are monthly drop-in sessions for those who have lost a spouse/partner which allow a small group of bereaved people to meet to talk about their experiences and feelings and gain support from each other.

They give the opportunity to share thoughts and challenges with others in a similar situation, which can help combat the feelings of isolation that often come with bereavement.  

Every meeting may have different participants and there is no set agenda, the topics discussed are any burning issues or whatever the members of the group feel inclined to talk about that day.

The group is open to all across age, gender, religion, duration and type of loss.

“Rules” for the group are fairly obvious:

  • Everything discussed is confidential within the group; this allows for free expression of feelings and challenges that one may be experiencing with family, friends, colleagues, the deceased partner and life in general.
  • There is no judging of each other’s thoughts, words, actions or beliefs; the words “should or ought” do not have a place in this support group and are not welcomed.

Topics that are often discussed include anniversaries and how hard most bereaved partners find these. Birthdays, wedding and date of death anniversaries are a challenge. Sometimes if the loss is recent, the day/time the loss happened is really hard, e.g.: Saturday at noon. One may for some time feel low every Saturday. Again “time” is different and individual for everyone.

There are no set rules as to how bereavement progresses, everyone’s journey is unique. Christmas and holidays such as Easter are often a stark reminder that one is without the person with whom you have shared so many such times, and there may be the awareness that other families may not necessarily remember that you are alone today.What to do this year? The usual format of the day... or totally change it so the loss may feel less sharp?

Difficult comments from friends, family and colleagues are often discussed. The knowledge that many in the community are uncomfortable with your sadness, would like to “fix”  it and do not know what to say. This may result in unhelpful platitudes such as “time heals all”; “I know how you feel”; “It happens to everyone”; “don’t think about him/her” etc.

The group offers a safe place to express the feelings of loneliness, regret, or even relief that are sometimes difficult to share with others; the social status change that arrives, unwanted, when a partner/spouse dies accompanied by the forced adoption of the roles they once fulfilled; the social mask that one eventually wears when one feels that others do not really want to know that the pain is still there and they cannot fix this; the difficulty in deciding when and what to do with each and every piece of clothing, toiletries, belongings and what is considered healthy and unhealthy to retain.

The group members look forward to the monthly groups as an opportunity to share what they are going through with those who have experienced something similar, but never exactly the same.

You can donate to support the important work of Island Hospice and Healthcare via Global Giving: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/island-hospice-and-healthcare/

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Make sure you visit the Island Hospice and Healthcare website to keep up to date with their work.

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