When you are thinking about attending a chapter meeting, especially if it your first-ever meeting of The Compassionate Friends (TCF), you probably will have many questions. Remember that you’ll be among people who understand. Here is what you can expect at our East Of The River CT Chapter….
How do I know if it’s too soon after my child or sibling‘s death to attend?
No one can say with certainty when is the right time to come to a meeting. Sometimes family members come shortly after the child or sibling has passed, while others wait longer. Sometimes people come for a while, move away, and then come back again. There are no rules and no right or wrong. It’s a personal decision that needs to fit you.
Do I need a reservation before I come to a meeting?
No reservations are needed.
But, if you are coming for the first time and are able to phone, email or send a note through Facebook, we will make sure to have a name badge and information packet waiting for you. Just come whenever you feel up to it. It is helpful if you arrive at least 15 minutes before Meeting Content Begins at 7:00. This allows for a little quiet and orientation time between you and one of us who remember how emotional it can be to attend a meeting for the first time. (We actually begin gathering at 6:30. This allows time to visit casually, talk to others about their lives, form relationships, have coffee and a snack.)
If I go to a meeting, will I have to talk?
Not at all! No one is required to talk at any meeting. You share what you are comfortable sharing, only. It is about your comfort level and your needs.
We understand how difficult that can be when grief is so fresh.
Just, please, allow those who do need to talk their time and listen.
You may find commonality.
Is there a charge to attend?
Absolutely not. There is never a charge to attend a The Compassionate Friends Peer-to-Peer Support Meeting. Every chapter relies on voluntary donations from members, friends, and the community at large.
We hold a couple of fund-raisers during the year to raise coasts for the operation of the chapter. All on the leadership, steering and advisory board are strictly volunteers. But rent, paper, phone, the library, our outreach program and many other expenses are supported by donations and fund-raising.
My child was an adult and didn’t live at home. Can I still go to a meeting?
The age of your child isn’t what is important.
Where or not your child or sibling was married, lived with you, isn’t what is important. This is the person you love.
Chapter meetings are open to all families that have experienced the death of a child or sibling, at any age from pre-birth to full maturity, from any cause. Regardless of our child’s age, we in The Compassionate Friends believe our children will always be thought of as just that . . . our ‘children’. When we use the word “child” we mean it to be inclusive of siblings and grandchildren as well.
My spouse won’t come with me. Can I come alone?
Yes. We all grieve differently and your spouse or significant other may not be ready to take part just yet . . . or ever.
You are also welcomed to bring a support person or other family member.
During our East of the River Chapter Meetings we usually have a time where the dads and the moms get to sit and talk separately. We also try to give our siblings private time to talk just with other siblings.
Though this is a Shared Journey for many, men and women do speak, process and share differently. We have found that giving each “sub group” time to be with themselves has worked very well to allow for sharing.
Can I bring a friend with me the first time (or longer) for support?
Of course, you can bring a friend.
Support persons are also asked to complete a contact information form and agree, as everyone who comes through our doors must, to respect each other’s privacy. It is important for us to be able to share freely within our group and be sure confidences will be respected.
Do men attend meetings?
Yes. Our TCF East Of The River CT steering committee currently has 2 male members, as well as several men who regularly attend meetings.
Many chapters are divided almost evenly between men and women while others are not. Men and women do grieve differently, but, absolutely, men grieve, too, and are welcome to attend meetings for support. As mentioned above, during our East of the River Chapter Meetings we usually have a time where the dads and the moms get to sit and talk separately. Though this is a Shared Journey for many, men and women do speak, process and share differently. We have found that giving each “sub group” time to be with themselves has worked very well to allow for sharing. The dads, especially, seem to benefit from this “Men Only” time.
What happens at a meeting?
You’ll find lots of information about coming to your first meeting, the meeting format, the ASK IT BASKET, Privacy, The Memory Table and Digital Photo Frame and more on our website.
Some meetings we simply introduce ourselves and share our thoughts and feelings. At other times, we might have a short program before or after the sharing time. The programs may include a brief guest speaker, viewing a video tape, or listening to an audio tape or CD. At times there will be special events when we hold a butterfly release or have a memorial candle lighting. Most meetings tend to have a pre-panned “Meeting Focus Topic”, but at every meeting we meet the needs of the group and allow the members to steer the content and direction of the flow.
I sometimes have trouble sitting still, focusing, crying without warning. Maybe I shouldn’t go to a meeting yet.
It is probably the best time to come to a meeting, because you will be surrounded by others you “get it” and are usually much more comfortable with the emotions of grief than those who have not experienced such a deep loss.
Attending a meeting and being with others who have experienced these things and who truly understand may be the best place for you to be.
During a meeting, we urge you to take care of your needs. If you need to get up and move about, as long as you aren’t doing it in a rude or distractive manner, feel free to stretch your legs. Get some coffee, tea, walk or a snack. Go to the rest room or outside of the meeting room if you need a “break”. We are very flexible and understand that emotions and pain can feel very overwhelming. We are strong advocates of taking care of your needs.
Much of the time, the day after a meeting you can feel very drained and emotional.
It is “normal”.
The Grief Experience IS very draining, very painful, very difficult.
We can’t avoid this pain and allowing it, experiencing it, going through it is necessary, somehow.
Don’t let that “Day After” feeling of being tired and maybe tender stop you from coming to the meetings. For most, it levels out …and once understood that these emotions are part of experiencing the grief after the death of our child or sibling, we find a way to get through that Day After The Meeting Feeling, too.
My child ~ my sibling ~ died from _____. Will I still be welcome?
Yes. All families that have experienced the death of a ‘child’, no matter the age, no matter the cause, are welcome.
Religion doesn’t matter to me anymore. Can people at a meeting accept that?
The Compassionate Friends has no religious affiliation.
You will find most The Compassionate Friends members are very tolerant of other’s views. After the death of a child, many priorities, as well as values, change. Acceptance is very important to all of us at a meeting and nothing else is allowed.
I have babysitting problems. Would it be all right to bring my five-year-old with me?
While we understand the difficulties of finding child care, we must ask that any children attending with you be old enough to understand the meeting discussions and not be upset by them. Some chapters have sibling groups for children twelve or older. While our East Of The River Chapter welcomes and provides sibling support, generally it is better for the sibling to be at least a young adult. There is great local sibling support and we can provide information about groups for younger children.
Children of all ages are welcomed to our Family Days and most of the Special Events
My child died seven years ago, and I postponed my grief work. Now it’s catching up with me. Is it too late to come now?
There is no time limit on grief.
We all grieve differently. Many parents or siblings don’t feel the need for a support group until years after the passing of their loved one. It’s alright to come whenever you are ready, whether it’s soon after the death, months later, or years later.
How long do people come to meetings?
People attend meetings until they no longer feel a need. Some attend just a few meetings while others come for years, not only for the support and understanding that they receive but to help others through their darkest times. You come when you need to. Even if you have been away from a meeting for a long while and you feel the need to come to a meeting that is fine. Sometimes families return to a meeting around difficult times, holidays or anniversaries. There is no right or wrong.
We welcome those who are so thankful for the helpful support they’ve received that they stay to help in chapter leadership and other volunteer capacities, being there for the next person who walks through the doors seeking help.
Why is it that The Compassionate Friends recommends that I attend three meetings before deciding if it’s for me?
Often, the first meeting brings a lot of emotions to the surface and this may make the first meeting difficult. Some get scared by the depth of emotion that they may feel the Day After a Meeting. Some say that they bring home the pain of others after listening to their stories. Attending three meetings gives you time enough to allow your emotions to even out and to understand that in sharing, there is healing.
Each meeting is different from the one before, depending on the group attending that evening. Our Steering Committee is VERY OPEN TO HEARING from members about the meeting format or any challenges or recommends that any member has. The Group does not belong to the Leadership, but to the Members attending. We do our best to listen to everyone and to take all information provided to us about how we can make the meeting experience as good as it can be for all of our members.