I am often asked how to set up a support group, everyone will have their own ideas about this.
When I started this journey in 2007, I just did what I thought I would want from a support group and then asked members themselves at our meetings what they would find helpful.
For me the most important word is ‘support’.
When grandparents find themselves in this situation they feel alone and isolated, and it is a groups job to tell them and show them that is not the case.
Grandparents will want to have answers, will want advice, but I never give advice that may sound odd but the reasons are that, if you are running a charity and you give someone specific advice and it goes wrong you could find yourselves and the trustees liable for the wrong advice.
All of us can share our own experiences and suggest things that worked for us, what works for some may not work for others.
Support is not being judgemental in any way.
I have spoken about trust before, and it is a vital that grandparents can trust you, they share the most personal details with you, they need to know that those details are never shared, unless they state in writing otherwise.
You are connecting with people who are very sad,broken,fearful,despondent, desperate, and angry and many more emotions. Several grandparents have told me that they have been told things like, ” Oh I have heard it all before,” “You are just one of many,” which is terrible. Your case is unique, your case is personal to you, the grandparent who has taken the courage to contact a support group needs your respect. Respect in acknowledging their own story.
It is of course sometimes so difficult to bare that many grandparents are ill, not just feeling poorly but really ill, both physically and mentally, some are questioning their place here on earth, that maybe ending it all is the only answer. The pain and heartbreak is beyond measure.
This is time for them to seek professional help, and we need to encourage them to go to their GP’s.
I think a support group has to work on all things that are positive within an individuals life, although some may say there are none, in reality that is not the case, we just have to become much more aware of what is all around us.
It may sound trite, but it isn’t.
Taking time to just stand and listen, look, smell, taste becoming super sensitive to the life that is happening around us. There is always something to be thankful for, however low we may be feeling.
Finally, support is a two way thing, and I have witnessed on numerous occasions a grandparent who is in the depths of despair just having a hand on their shoulder by someone else who knows exactly how they are feeling without saying a word is so empowering to both parties.
Our groups, offer all of these things, and all members are valued and are very special ‘friends.’
So if you are setting up a group remember it is about always being willing to listen, to never be judgemental, to support one another, to always think of the good things that this life has to offer and above all to just be there.
Have a wonderful day today.