When you suffer through loss, there are times when you need extra support and encouragement that you might not get from your inner circle. There may be many reasons why they aren't able to meet your needs or why they aren’t your main source of support following a loss.
If you’re looking for like-minded folks who have dealt with a similar loss, there are many online grief support groups that may fit the bill.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Determine Your Needs
- Step 2: Reflect on Your Personality
- Step 3: Decide on Availability
- Step 4: Gauge Online Safety
- Step 5: Set Your Goals
- Step 6: Decide Your Level of Commitment
- Step 7: Consider In-Person Support Groups
- Taking Action
Finding the best support groups to join may not be the easiest thing to accomplish since there are so many to choose from, but selecting the right one can mean all the difference in the world when it comes to helping you through your grief.
The following step-by-step guide can serve as your roadmap to finding your way into the right group for you that both meets your needs and suits your personality.
Step 1: Determine Your Needs
One of the first things to consider is where you’re at in your grief journey. Are you at the beginning stages of grief after losing a pet, or have you already worked through most of the stages and are ready to move ahead through the final stages of mourning? These are important considerations as they will help in searching for support. Landing in the right group will enhance your experience that much more than joining a group that doesn’t fit your needs.
Start by being honest with yourself about what you’re feeling and experiencing regarding your loss, and ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you accepted your loss, or are you still trying to come to terms with it?
- Is your grief so overwhelming that you aren’t able to function in your daily life?
- Was your pet your only source of companionship, love, and emotional support?
- Do you have a support network outside of your online social groups?
- Are you feeling despondent, depressed, or suicidal?
- Have you already transitioned from the initial stages of grief?
- Are you looking for others to interact with, or will reading grief blogs about how others have experienced grief get you through?
Step 2: Reflect on Your Personality
When joining online support groups, you will find that there are many different types of personalities to contend with within your unique group. Consider your personality style in deciding which group to join.
There are groups for introverts who tend to be more understated, quiet, and low-key in their communication style. Some groups cater to more out-going types of personalities where everything can be like a celebration. Figure out where you best fit in.
There isn’t one group that is better than the other — there are only groups that are better suited to you than others. Perhaps you’ll find that you fit somewhere between the two. Sometimes you feel like keeping to yourself, while at others you may feel like leading the group for a particular session. Begin your search with these things in mind.
Step 3: Decide on Availability
How much time you will devote to your new group is also an important factor in deciding which one to join. There are interactive groups that meet several times a day every day, and then there are some that never account for the time that you “show up” at their virtual meetings.
The time and structure of the group will also determine how effective it is for you as you go through your grief journey. Consider how much or how little of your time you want to devote to your group. In addition, make sure to take into consideration whether you need more accountability than what some of the more lenient groups provide.
Step 4: Gauge Online Safety
When joining an online grief support group, understand that people may join these types of groups when they’re at the most vulnerable stages in their healing process. Not everyone who joins these groups comes with the right intentions.
Sadly, there are people out there who prey on others’ vulnerabilities and seek out their victims by joining online support groups such as these. Perhaps the group that you choose has safety measures in place to protect its members' identities. If you’re not able to maintain anonymity when joining, carefully weigh every request to join group members outside of the designated online support sessions.
Step 5: Set Your Goals
Take some time to consider what you’re trying to get out of joining an online support group. Are you seeking added support from others who have experienced a similar loss to yours? Or, do you feel that no one understands what you are going through after losing a pet unexpectedly?
Regardless of the reasons why you’re choosing to go online for support, it’s important to have clear goals in mind when looking for the right fit for you. Don’t be afraid to pose questions to the group’s moderators to see if their goals align with yours. Some things to look for and ask are:
- How often does the group meet?
- What are the goals of the group? (Is it a social group, or a group with clearly defined goals?)
- Are the sessions outlined with a beginning and an end to each one, or do they continue over a course of sessions?
- Is there a beginning and an end to therapy?
- Is there a therapist assigned to the group?
- Are there any fees to join or to access any of the group’s online materials and resources?
Step 6: Decide Your Level of Commitment
Your level of commitment to your grief work will determine the success of having joined a support group. If you have yet to fully commit and are only beginning to explore therapy, make sure you consider that when deciding on a group to join.
Groups exist out there for every level, and you shouldn’t feel pressured into choosing one over another. There's nothing right or wrong about where you find yourself in your grieving process, and no one should judge you for making the decisions that are right for you.
The most important consideration to make here is whether or not you have committed to your healing process and at what level you're willing to take that commitment.
Step 7: Consider In-Person Support Groups
Naturally, not all support groups are online. There are some in-person support groups still out there that can offer you the opportunity to meet people face-to-face and interact with one another in a safe and controlled setting. Your local veterinarians likely keep a list of groups that meet in your area and can connect you with them whenever you’re ready to share in your loss with others.
Keep in mind that when joining this type of group, you may feel more vulnerable in sharing about your personal struggles. This typically happens when you feel like you have to put your guard up to protect yourself from others. If you live in a small community, you may not want to open yourself up emotionally to a group of people you may see in local shops and at community events.
Once you have taken all the above considerations in helping you determine which type of group is best for you, now it’s time to take action. You may be wondering what’s next now that you have all of the above information down and you’re ready to get started finding a group. How do you go about finding a group online?
The practical steps to take are to start with where you’re comfortable:
Facebook is one of the most popular and easiest to use social media apps available today for adults. In the app, you will find an online community known as Facebook Groups. It’s a place where you can “connect through Facebook to share your experiences and make meaningful connections” with others in a variety of interests. It’s a peer-to-peer network where you can go to support one another.
Go online and type Google in your browser to head to their main page, and type in anything that you want more information on. Try searching for terms that fit exactly what you’re looking for. For example, type in some of the following search terms and phrases that apply to your particular loss:
- “Grief support group for people who have lost their pet”
- “Pet loss and bereavement online support groups”
- “Grief, loss, and mourning after pet loss”
Instagram is another social media app that allows you to connect with people all over the world. This app is free to use and is categorized through the use of hashtags, or the “pound sign.”
For example, if you’re looking for grief support quotes, you will search for #griefsupportquotes, or you can get a bit more specific and type in, #petlosssupportquotes. Instantly, you’ll be able to look through dozens of posts having everything to do with these search terms. This is a great way to connect with others that share the same interests as you.
Finding the Support You Need
Getting help through your grief is only a click away. Online grief support groups for pet loss can be found for almost any type of pet and for all different types of people and personalities. Finding the right fit for you is important for you to feel fulfillment from your participation and for the success of your grieving process.