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Getting Used to a Support Group

Article on Caregiving. June 25, 2018

In a previous post, I wrote of the advantages of a support group. Caregiving can entail emotional turmoil and one way to deal with it is to talk about it to people who understand and who are going through—or have gone through—the same problems.

But some people, particularly men, are put off by the idea of support groups. They think of them as touchy-huggy-feely weep sessions and want nothing to do with them. Other people rebel at the thought of revealing personal information, whether about their carees or their own emotions.

That was my reaction when someone suggested I look at a support group. It wasn't for me. I wasn't a fan of public tears. Someone in my past once suggested that I needed to get in touch with my emotions. My response was, "Sure. Give me their number and maybe I'll call them some day." Blubbering in front of anyone, particularly strangers was just not going to happen. My other concern was that in talking about my problems, I'd need to talk about my wife's. That seemed like a betrayal of the confidences we shared. It was nobody else's business.

But I realized I needed to talk to someone and I didn't want to burden my friends and family. So almost in desperation, I tried a support group. For the first couple of sessions, I kept my guard up. I wielded my skepticism like a shield. When it was my turn to talk, I resorted to the name-rank-serial number school of communication. To my relief, the group didn't pressure me. There was no attitude that if I wasn't willing to provide them with theater, I wasn't welcome. They were just a bunch of people with a common problem who talked about their issues and provided suggestions to each other.

Over time, I realized there were almost no tears, no boxes of facial tissue, no hugs if I didn't want them. But there was information and I realized I was getting value from that and from just talking about what was happening. I also came to understand that these people were going through the same struggles I was. That gave me the confidence to keep going and gradually, to immerse myself in the group. I've learned to benefit from the wisdom of the others who are in it. Now, I don't even mind a hug at the end.