Some ideas for a mourning group

For the group I facilitate, we settled on a format that works for us by trial & error. Below are some suggestions anyone considering starting an on-line group might like to try.

Perhaps most important is to remember that purpose of a mourning group is to support members’ mourning. The group isn’t a support group or an empathy group and I discourage people from asking for feedback about their sharing, and discourage people from offering feedback or suggestions. We aim to create a space for people to experience and share their mourning. People may actually be reluctant to share their mourning if they are concerned they won’t be heard, that others present will respond with suggestions and advice.

Our meeting has a core of three regular members and two or three people who come from time to time. Over the course of several months we have settled into a comfortable sense of trust with each other which has allowed a deeper sense of connection than I usually experience on-line. Sometimes we sit silently together for 20 minutes or more until one of us is moved to speak. I have noticed a sense of mourning arising during the meeting around an unfulfilled need, and have not sensed the need to be heard. The intention to set aside the time often seems to be sufficient to attend to the need for mourning.

I think a good size from a group is between three and seven people. If the group is successful and more want to join, I suggest offering people support to start a new group. My experience is that a group is most successful when a core of regular members show every week unless they have good reason to be elsewhere.

The roles in the group

  • The facilitator is the person who leads the meeting.
  • The host is the person whose Pro Zoom account holds the meeting. This is not necessarily the same person as the facilitator.
  • The facilitator role may change from time to time.
  • If the facilitator role is to change, I recommend doing it no more often than once a month.

Agreements & principles

The group meets for one hour at the same time each week. During the spring and autumn/fall times when USA, European and Asian time zones are out of sync, the meeting time is anchored to the host’s time zone.

The group will not usually respond to what anyone shares. In particular, we will not attempt to ‘fix’ someone’s pain or offer advice.

No one is obliged to speak and the group may sit in silence for many minutes. Once inspired to speak, no one is obliged to stop when they are in flow.

Suggested format for a mourning group

  1. The facilitator opens the meeting by inviting everyone to pause for three breaths and become present. The facilitator might ring a bell, singing bowl or other similar device if something suitable is available.
  2. The facilitator invites brief a check in. Each person shares how they are now and any mourning they are bringing to the meeting.
  3. The facilitator invites those present to share any morning they are carrying. The company sit silently until someone is moved to share.
  4. Ten minutes before the scheduled end time the facilitator invites brief checkouts.

Suggested reading

The Wild Edge of Sorrow, Francis Weller. Although I am dyslexic I found this very readable and recommend it highly.

The Smell of Rain on Dust, Martin Prechtel. A more difficult read which I think is worth the effort.

There are useful videos on YouTube of Francis Weller talking about the Five Gates of Grief which offer valuable insights.