I’m addicted to support groups. In fact, I’ve become a support group junkie.
It all started with Toastmasters, a speech club, where every talk I ever gave was wrapped up by an encouraging drum roll of applause. Whether good or bad they gave accalaids just for trying. I learned through Toastmasters that positive environments lent themselves towards my overall development and self-esteem. They made me feel confident, capable, and excited to tackle a next new challenge.
Last year, when my husband died, I attended a very specific bereavement group for widows and widowers who still had dependents living at home. Once that 9 week session finished, I visited a suicide bereavement group. That was cut short by an incredibly inconvenient bought with the flu. Anxious to re-connect, I joined my daughter at Healing little Hearts; a support group for 3 to 6-year-olds, where parents got their own outlet time with an official facilitator who allowed us to debrief while our kids did their healing with play-dough and puppet in the other room.
There was something about an outlet where I could share my story that had incredibly healing powers for me. Whether it was writing in a private journal, sharing my story online, or talking one on one with a friend, finding a safe place, an outlet to dialogue, or transparently submit my thoughts to the public, where I felt most free. When my thoughts were received with grace and acceptance, I felt a little lighter, and more confident to face the road ahead.
The broken shards of glass in my life, the tattoos of my scars, the details of my story, are what I found beautiful about safe places, and support groups. They had welcomed me as I was, and I considered it pure joy to delight in the humanity of others whose willingness to engage and be vulnerable enchanted and encouraged me.
Whether over coffee with a friend, in a public setting, an official or unofficial group of heart-on-their-sleeve support attendees, I had become a proud support group junkie. Choosing to walk through life with others had not made me less. It had enriched me. It had made me more, because with others, I was the accumulation of individuals who had propped me up so I could see the sun that towered above the shadows of a deep dark valley.