The Reluctance to Attend Bereavement Support Groups

We tend to be unprepared for dying and death and we are unprepared for grief. Most of us don’t understand mourning, its natural flow, all the feelings and emotions that grieving presents. We are numb, we are screaming inside, we are confused, we are lost, we are alone, isolated, angry, afraid---all a normal parts of grieving. The thing is, most of us don’t know that all of what I just mentioned is normal and natural. It is grief but in our pain we think there must be something wrong with us, we are the ones out of step, we are not normal.

This is where bereavement support groups come in. Support groups are for anyone experiencing a death. The groups are not for just those people having challenges in dealing with their loss but for any and everyone who has lost someone close to them, or not so close to them. Bereavement support groups offer guidance to understanding that there is a normal pattern of grief and gives support and a place to verbalize as the feelings unfold. It is a place where those who have walked in the same shoes can gather and find strength to continue the walk.

Hospices are mandated by Medicare to offer bereavement support groups. Churches often offer grief support groups as part of their community outreach. This support can be found in almost any community. The problem is that bereavement groups tend not to be attended. The offer is there, but those mourning are hesitant to attend. Why? I think it's because part of grief is depression and isolation. Together that keeps a person in their home, alone, with out the energy or ability to reach out, to leave their house, to take the step to reaching out for support.

What can a hospice do about this hesitancy, this inability and reluctance to attend the group? I don't think it is enough to send out invitations; even making telephone calls and inviting doesn’t seem to get people out the door. What seems to work best is utilizing the hospice volunteers in the bereavement support program.

As part of the bereavement program, assign a volunteer to the griever. That volunteer’s job is to be a friend, to have not just phone contact but physical contact on a regular basis for a year if possible. This volunteer doesn't just invite but also goes with the griever to at least the first group meeting if not more. It is easier to turn down a written or a telephone invitation than it is to resist a friend, in person, who is offering nurturing, understanding, and to accompany you to a meeting.

Something More about... The Reluctance to Attend Bereavement Support Groups

A few years ago my friend's family member died by suicide. At that time I offered her my booklet, My Friend, I Care: The Grief Experience as a sympathy card. After she read the booklet she showed it to the grieving mother who asked for her own copy.  A couple days ago my friend and I were chatting- she told me that the mother still carries my grief booklet in her purse because grief rears its head at unexpected times.

Related products


Anna Holden

I live in Melbourne Australia.
I was given Your books when my brother was at home in hospice care in Palm Springs, California.
What a tremendous help they were to my sister in law and myself. I’ll never forget. I’ve ordered extra copies and sang your praise to my oncology psychotherapist for the last 3 years.
I attended a bereavement councillor here for 3 months after the death of my best friend Jazzy June a 17 year old 1.8 kilo chihuahua. When I didn’t feel like driving to my appointment we did telephone sessions. What a help she was.
Thank you again Barbara. :)
BK Books replied:
Hi Anna, thank you for the kind, encouraging words about my materials. Have you read A Place In My Heart. * You *might find it helpful with Jazzy’s death. Our animals can mean more to us than some people who are in our life.. Blessings to you. Barbara


Hello Barbara,
So appreciated reading your article about people’s reluctance to attend bereavement support groups after suffering the loss of a loved one.
Having unexpectedly lost my husband a year ago, I am so grateful to the hospice that helped me care for my husband at home in his last few days. Afterwards, its bereavement group reached out to me each time it had a new support group session beginning and I eventually attended. The experience of hearing others’ stories, sharing my own, and honoring all those we lost was so incredibly helpful in what I know is a healing process that will last the rest of my life. Though I continue to miss my husband every single day, I am thankful for the life we had and the memories I will cherish forever.
BK Books replied:
Thanks Betty for sharing your bereavement support group experience. Hopefully others will read your comment and be less reluctant to attend. Blessings! Barbara

Peg Neeley

Having lost a good friend & neighbor, I gave his wife a copy of your booklet, “My friend, I care” I found the book comforting & hope my friend does also.
BK Books replied:
Thank you Peg. It can be helpful and comforting to know a bit about normal grief. Blessings! Barbara

Pamela Mills

Despite my longstanding career in medicine I am so depressed with the loss of my husband and the legal issues which overwhelm me.
I can’t find any support groups here have appreciated your insight into this horrendous journey we all have to go through one day
BK Books replied:
Hi Pamela, I’m sorry you have not been able to find a support group. Have you called your local hospice? What about a church group? Find one of your friends to be your “listener”. Doesn’t need to have, or will have, answers but just someone who will listen to you vent and cry. Blessings to you during this challenging time. Barbara


Yes I wish I had a volunteer when my husband died. I wish our local hospice group would allow volunteers to maintain contact with the family after death than just pre-death. I am a hospice volunteer. Thank you Barbara….Hoping change will happen in my lifetime with hospice.
BK Books replied:
Hi Anne, Have you talked with the hospice you volunteer with about helping them enhance their bereavement offering by using volunteers? Plant the seed and help them grow it. Blessings to you in the work you are doing. If we want change we have to make it happen. Barbara

1 2 3

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published