Finding a support group for widows and widowers

6 min read

Different types of support groups for people whose spouse or partner has passed away

  • Sometimes the support of friends and family only goes so far, and you need the company of others who are going through a similar experience.

  • It is easier than ever to find a grief support community, thanks to the proliferation of online choices.

  • In-person groups, on the other hand, potentially offer the warmth of group camaraderie and more opportunity to make friends.

  • Whether the group you join meets online or face-to-face, you may want to be with others who are like you: in age or in religious affiliation, for instance.

  • Think about what is important to you, and choose a group based on those values

When your spouse or partner dies, it can feel like you’ve suddenly lost half of yourself. What once felt whole is now in pieces. No matter how long the marriage or relationship lasted, or how many ups and downs you had in your relationship, the death of a life partner is devastating.

After a while, trying to make sense of the loss on your own might prove difficult. Even if you’re surrounded by a strong network of friends and family members, it just might not be enough.

You may find at some point that you want to seek professional help or or the company of other people who are going through loss and grief. If so, there are different types of support groups specifically for those who have experienced the death of a spouse or partner.

Finding support online

Our technologically advanced society has made access to grief support groups easier than ever before. With one click of your phone or computer, you can join a group where you and others can share what you’re experiencing.

Online support groups are more flexible when it comes to attendance and there are groups 24/7, for those times in the middle of the night where you just need to not be alone.  

Online groups provide a greater level of anonymity so there’s no pressure of speaking up.

While all support groups do hope that you’ll join in and share your story, as it’s beneficial for you and others in the group, you can just virtually sit in and observe, without worrying about people wondering why you have yet to say anything.

You can opt in and out of online support groups if the energy doesn’t feel right or the topic is triggering.

Online groups also offer one-on-one chat rooms should some of you in the group want to start your own conversation because you’ve realized you have a lot in common with each other.

Finding community, in person

While online support groups can offer the understanding, friendship, and encouragement that you need, they’re not right for everyone.

For some, face-to-face support provides a level of humanity that can’t always be conveyed or felt through technology. For others, having a reason to get out of the house, be somewhere at a specific time and for a certain duration, gives them a sense of purpose.

With in-person support groups, there’s a greater sense of inclusion because everyone is in a room together. For some people, being present with others is a helpful way to deal with their loss.

Face-to-face support provides a level of humanity that can’t always be conveyed or felt through technology.

Just as much as being there for others and listening can be beneficial for some people, so is being in a safe space where they can share their stories. It also can be a good way to make friends, if that’s something you’re looking to pursue during this difficult time.

It’s hard to imagine what you’ll need or what you’ll find solace in when you’re ready to seek out a support group. But if you weigh the pros and cons, and measure them up against what you know about yourself, it will help you figure out which is the best path to take.

What to look for in a support group

Once you have decided if you want your support group to be online or in-person, the next thing you want to ask yourself is what you want that group to offer you.

All support groups exist to validate all the emotions of grief, make those who are in mourning feel less alone, and give everyone in the group a sense of hope—to find the right group for you, look for one that fits your values.

For example, if you are religious or spiritual, finding a support group that believes in a higher power or an afterlife is a better fit than a group where there is no spirituality.

If you are a young widow or widower, you may want to seek out a group of people who are similar in age and have a deeper understanding of what that type of loss means than those who may be elderly.

What’s most important is that you leave each meeting feeling less alone—and possibly that you’ve learned some new coping skills.

You also might want something more casual, like a bereavement group that’s more of a meet-up than a counseling session because it aligns with where you are in your grieving journey.

Support groups run the gamut in how they are run and who attends them, so you have a lot of options.

Although groups that share your values are something to seriously consider, what’s most important is that you leave each meeting—whether it’s online or in-person—feeling as though you’ve learned new coping skills for your loss and you’re developing an understanding of the grieving process.

Experiencing such a devastating loss like that of a partner or spouse is rarely something that people can manage on their own. Although there are many different types of professional help and ways in which you can experience that help, you may find you’re not sure where to start.

All you can do at that point is go with your instinct and what feels right for you. No one can tell you how to grieve; theres only support to help you along the way.