How to Find In-Person Grief Support Groups: Step-By-Step

Updated

Learning to cope with grief after undergoing a significant loss is sometimes challenging to handle alone. Finding the right support to get you through the darkest moments of your despair can mean the difference between simply surviving and thriving post-loss. Fortunately, there are many free grief resources available both online and in person to help you.

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Recently, there’s been a noteworthy shift in how we meet and interact with others. Online conferencing and meet-up groups are now the new normal. Many people consider conducting their business and everyday lives online rather than leaving the comfort of their homes. 

However, sometimes grieving individuals need to feel the human touch, receive a hug, and have someone wipe their tears when things get tough. Here, we’ll focus on helping find the right in-person support group for you or a loved one.

What’s the Difference Between In-Person vs. Online Grief Support Groups?

Receiving social support has never been more accessible through online internet searches, Facebook groups, and other social networking sites. Both online and in-person grief support groups offer a form of self-help therapy that can be beneficial to those struggling with coping after a loss. 

Both groups aim at bringing together bereaved individuals with shared experiences to support one another as they move through their pain. While online grief support groups help you get the support you need, they differ in crucial ways from in-person meetings. 

Online support groups usually attract people from all over. A significant difference with online grief support groups is the lack of in-person, face-to-face interactions. In-person groups typically attract locals who are also grieving and needing the added support of their community.

When you join an in-person grief support group, you have the added benefit of making and fostering real connections and friendships that build onto your social network. Although you can form relevant bonds with your online support group members, it’s sometimes challenging to take those friendships out of an online context and convert them into real life. 

When comparing online versus in-person grief support groups, you may notice that the level of engagement among its members is very different. One of the most limiting aspects of online support groups is that you might have trouble getting ahold of someone specific within your group unless you exchange contact information beforehand. Although online groups often allow 24-hour access to their forums and discussion groups, you’ll have to wait for someone to join the conversation or respond to your post. 

Another difference is that there’s an added risk of miscommunications and misinterpretations with online groups. Unless you participate in a video chat, you can’t gauge the speaker’s non-verbal communication cues such as body language, intonation, and context. 

These communication difficulties can also come up when participating in in-person support groups. But when you’re meeting with your group in person, it’s usually easier to interpret what people mean because there are visual cues to help you make sense of what they’re saying, even when their grief holds them back.

Regardless, you always have a direct opportunity to discuss things privately or within the group to immediately clear things up when these situations arise.

Steps for Finding In-Person Grief Support Groups

While there are many benefits to online grief support groups, traditional in-person groups help bereaved individuals get through their loss by providing support in a real-life social context. With our changing social climate and limited in-person resources due to COVID-19, it’s now more challenging finding in-person grief support groups. 

Many of the usual resources no longer offer in-person group meetings, so you’ll have to do a bit more legwork to find the right group for you in these limited times. Here are a few steps to finding the right in-person grief support group for you or a loved one needing added support. 

Figure out your needs

When you start looking around for the right support group, you may notice that there are groups for all types of grieving situations. Try not to box yourself into any particular group until you’ve had a chance to explore your individual grief needs. Things to consider are:

  • How new you are into your grief journey
  • The type of loss you’ve experienced
  • If you’re comfortable with mixed gendered groups
  • Whether you want to meet indoors or out in nature
  • How many times per month the group meets
  • The number of members participating

Check out the offerings

When you live in an urban setting, it’s easier to find more local in-person grief support groups than when you live in a rural area. In either case, start locally with the hospital system that you’re most familiar with. Many hospitals offer free grief support to their patients, their families, and the communities they serve. Many have in-house chaplaincy services staffed by either paid clergy or a team of volunteers.

Check on their website to find the types of bereavement services they offer and the start dates for any upcoming support group sessions. If they don’t offer group services, they may refer you to other community resources that do. 

Call hospice services

Hospice provides group grief and bereavement support as part of their end-of-life care as well as hospice grief counseling. They offer services to patients receiving hospice or palliative care, their families, and the communities they serve, much like hospitals do.

These services are typically free of charge and begin as soon as a person requests them. Usually, you can find a list of providers from your local hospital, an internet search, or by calling your medical insurance carrier.   


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Ask your support group

Asking for help is sometimes one of the most challenging things we face, especially when dealing with grief. Grief and loss are universal, with most people having faced significant setbacks in their lives.

Unfortunately, society has yet to normalize grief, making it difficult to open up about how grief is affecting us. However, you can almost always count on your closest friends and loved ones to get you the support you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals and recommendations. 

Talk to human resources

Your employer’s human resources department is one of the most beneficial places to turn to to get referrals for employees dealing with grief. Companies train their human resources staff to get employees the necessary help after suffering through loss, whether at home or work.

Your mental and emotional well-being is vital to your employer because it makes for a more emotionally balanced and productive workforce that benefits both the company and its employees. Human resources grief support services will get you in contact with local grief support agencies, in-house employee assistance, or refer you to local grief support groups. 

Visit your local librarian

Librarians have a wealth of knowledge and resources for you to tap into. Many in-person grief support groups meet at local libraries to provide access to bereaved community members. Your local librarian will have a list of current and past grief support groups. They can tell you when the scheduled one is coming up and how to sign up for it if you’re interested. These community resources are typically free of charge, and anyone is welcome to join. 

Call on the local funeral director

Funeral directors and their staff are well-trained in offering bereavement support services to individuals and families suffering through a recent loss of a loved one. But did you know that most funeral homes also provide in-person grief support group services to anyone needing them? 

Most people don’t associate funeral homes with grief support groups. But they do offer some of the most well-structured and comprehensive grief workshops, seminars, and groups in the areas they serve. You don’t need to have used their funeral services to participate in their community grief support services or outreach. 

Contact your religious leader

Houses of worship are excellent places to seek out in-person grief support services. If you're a member of a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or another house of worship, talk to your leaders and ask them about their bereavement support services.

Most places of worship have a website that you can check to see what bereavement services they provide. If they don't have a grief support group listed, ask if there's one available starting soon. These support groups usually have a volunteer moderator and are open to all members.

Do online research

The internet is one of the easiest ways to get your research underway in finding the best in-person grief support group to meet your needs. Spend a few minutes each week going over grief experiences, how you’re coping, and how you think you’re progressing with your loss-related feelings and emotions. 

Start your search by looking at how grief affects individuals dealing with your particular type of loss. While everyone grieves differently, many experience common grief reactions tied into their specific kind of loss. You might need to give yourself time after a loss to determine how you’ve been affected by it before seeking an appropriate support group.  

Finding the Right In-Person Grief Support Group

Although many general and loss-specific in-person grief support groups are still available, finding the right one will take time and research. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a support group is where you’re at in your healing journey. 

Grief support groups exist for all levels of grief and bereavement. If your loss experience is still fresh, consider looking for a support group with similarly situated members so that you can learn and grow together. Many grief counselors recommend that you delay joining a grief support group until you’ve had a few weeks to process your loss. 

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