Why I don't (yet) go to support groups

I was invited to join a support group this week. It's for women in a particular life/work situation, and I qualify, so I got invited. 

My immediate reaction was "Get the heck away from me!" but I got over the initial fight/flight, went along to the lunch and participated in the 'demo' of how such a thing might work.

And of course, as I can never stop myself opening my mouth, I shared a little about how I was feeling about a certain situation, and I found the people very very lovely and very genuine and honest and I'm sure it would be a wonderful group... but I Just Couldn't Commit.

In fact, I came home feeling all churned up for about two days which wasn't so fun. And I couldn't really figure it all out.

What is it about the words 'support group' that fills me with dread and fear?

It wasn't that I don't need or want support. I'm not stupid enough to think I can go through life isolated or independent. And it wasn't that I didn't like the people involved. They were great. I think they'd almost certainly be  trustworthy, kind and sensitive listeners.

It wasn't until I read this article about grief from Marilyn's blog, communicating across boundaries that I had a little 'a-ha' moment. 

Marilyn starts by quoting Dave Pollock, a TCK researcher. 

Dave Pollock, a man who arguably did more to understand the third culture kid experience than any other before his death, said this: “One of the major areas in working with TCKs is that of…dealing with the issue of unresolved grief. They are always leaving or being left. Relationships are short-lived.At the end of each school year, a certain number of the student body leaves, not just for the summer, but for good.It has to be up to the parent to provide a framework of support and careful understanding as the child learns to deal with this repetitive grief.”

He ends the paragraph with these words:

“Most TCKs go through more grief experiences by the time they are 20 than monocultural individuals do in a lifetime.”

It was the words in bold that got me.

The fact is, like most TCKs, I still have a lot of grief, despite the very excellent efforts of my parents to listen, understand and support throughout the many losses we all experienced. It's mostly unconscious now - it's not at the forefront of my thinking, but it's there and I'm quite happy not disturbing it. And it seems to me like a support group would definitely disturb it.

Using an illustration a friend of mine wrote to me this week, sometimes I feel a bit like a water balloon that has had pin holes poked in it. If you keep the balloon mostly still and don't shake it up too much, the water doesn't leak out too mcuh but once you start poking and prodding, everything around it starts to get wet.

It's not as if I can keep the different griefs in my life separate. Using another illustration, it's like they all go into a little 'grief' box together somewhere inside and mix around together.

If I went to a support group and had to open the box to take out one particular type of grief so I could get some support for it, the others might slide out too and make a mess on the floor. It would take a long time to clean them all up. And the fear is that I would feel bad for a long period while not actually dealing effectively with them.

I open the box sometimes. I do it by myself or with one or two particular friends, one on one, or with a counsellor. I open it up and pull things out and look at them, or rearrange others so it all fits a little better. Sometimes I take some things out of the box entirely as I don't need them anymore. But the box and what's inside it is unpredictable and I like to be in a place where I'm a little bit in control of how and when it gets opened.

And right now, I wouldn't feel like I had enough control in a support group.


What's your experience with support groups?


*This article by Robynn Bliss on loss is also very apt.