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Grief Support Group Helps Deal with Loss

How do you deal with grief? Some individuals rely on family and friends. Others try to work it out privately.

But grief over the loss of a loved one can leave you feeling isolated, sad, angry, powerless, confused and/or lonely. Dealing with these feelings often requires more than the support of friends or one’s own will power.

Washington Hospital’s Grief Support Group offers a safe environment for adults who have suffered a loss of parents, a spouse, a child, a friend or another loved one a place to share feelings, listen and perhaps learn from others who have experienced a similar loss.

“Being with others who also are dealing with grief can be very helpful,” says Michelle Hedding, coordinator of Washington Hospital’s Grief Support Group and the hospital’s Spiritual Care Program.

“Newcomers often are silent for a meeting or two before feeling comfortable about talking about their own loss. They absorb some wisdom from listening to others further along in the grieving process,” she adds.

The free, drop-in group meetings, open to all adults, are held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings in the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.

Participants may attend as often as they wish. Some come to a few meetings and others stay longer, sometimes up to two years. Individuals are encouraged to participate only to the level with which they are comfortable.

“Each person’s unique experience with grief is respected and honored,” Hedding says. “There isn’t any pressure to ‘get over it,’ which often happens with friends and family who believe they are being helpful by urging you to ‘move on’.

“There is no standard for how long it may take a person to recover from grief; it’s not a linear process,” Hedding says.

One area where the group discussions are particularly helpful is on how to deal with holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Hedding calls them “trigger times.” Hedding is a facilitator for the group which normally numbers between 15 to 20 persons. She emphasizes she is not a therapist, nor is the group a therapy session or oriented toward religion. It functions solely as a peer support group for adults grieving the loss of someone important in their lives.

Support groups are available in Oakland and Palo Alto for children grieving the loss of a parent, sibling or another loved one: Circle of Care in Oakland: and Kara in Palo Alto:

For more information about the support group, please call Hedding’s office at 510.818.6569, or the Washington Hospital telephone operator at 510.797.1111.