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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Support Group III -- Inauspicious Beginnings

After waiting for months for a four-week support group about parenting, I had a conflict that could not be avoided.

The truth is, there is a bit of a back-story, which makes this even more poignant.

You see, at first I had a Bar Mitzvah that night. So, I tried, unsuccessfully, to get the date changed (of the support group, not the Bar Mitzvah. duh!) Then God smiled at me, and the facilitator needed to postpone the meeting. I was so happy that I would not have to miss it! Then God laughed at me, and gave me parent-teacher meetings on the new meeting night. That was so unfair!

Well, I went early to the parent teacher meetings, but we still finished meeting with all the teachers after the support group already started. As soon as we were done, I ran (okay, drove) to my support group. I arrived an hour late.

Even though there was still an hour left to the meeting, I felt like I missed a lot.

In the end, there was nobody new in the group, except the facilitator, who I had met before, at a previous event. Most of the women were from my previous support group (Ch, L, M, and R) and one, MZ, was from our first support group. S and EZ, who led our last support group, also attended. I felt like I was "coming home," but also like I was late for something really important.

The group was still doing an "introductory" exercise. I listened as my friends shared their stories about what they told/shared with their children.

The facilitator wanted to extend the meeting, but several women needed to leave by ten. So, when everyone had finished, the facilitator turned to me and asked me to take two minutes to share what I had told/shared with my kids about my cancer.

For various reasons, I felt really put off. I would have preferred if she had just asked me to wait and share my experiences next week. How was I to sum up in two minutes what everyone else had just spent 15 minutes, or more, sharing?

In the end, I just answered, "We told our kids everything."

The facilitator had asked all the other women follow up questions, but she did not really have time for me. She did ask me one or two questions, but I did not understand what she wanted from me.

It was clear that there was no time for any detailed answers, so I resented her questions. I did not really know how to respond. With no background, and no real understanding of our family dynamic, what could I say?

I was really annoyed, but I did not know how to express my frustration constructively. I felt like anything I said would come out sounding like I was pouting. How could I make any demands for attention, when I was the one who came in an hour late?

After the meeting, the facilitator was very friendly and nice. She showed me the workbook they used for the meeting and suggested I do the exercises at home. The workbook is in Hebrew, so I was not sure that I would really use it on my own. The facilitator offered to bring me some materials in English next time.

As agitated as I felt, I could not remain upset at the facilitator, who was exceptionally warm and welcoming.

So, though I was decidedly unsatisfied, I will see what happens next meeting.

After looking forward to this group for so long, the actual meeting, or what was left of it, was a real letdown for me.

I have so many questions and concerns about parenting within the context of cancer.

I really need this group to help me process what is going on in our home.

More than anything, I need help in understanding how cancer is affecting my role as a mother.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Sarah said...

I wish I had a group like that. Thank Gd I am not dealing with cancer, but the dynamics of what is going on with me also effects the family, of course. I hope you have a better experience next time, and that you share with us some pearls of wisdom from there.

Karen said...

Same here. I also do not have cancer but I have a chronic illness that affects me in many of the same ways that cancer seems to affect you. And I'm a single parent, which further complicates things. I often worry that my kids see me as someone who is always in pain and tired and will have no memory of me as a fun, energetic person.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Sarah -- I wonder if Tishkofet has a group that might be appropriate for you. They run groups/programs for people/families dealing with chronic illness.

Before you reject it out of hand because of the disctance, I will mention that the groups don't usually meet every week, so it only means travelling once or twice a month.

There is a woman in my support group who comes from Dimona, by bus. (it's a three hour journey, each way).

You could stay overnight by me!

Karen -- the above organization might be appropriate for you too.

I can certainly relate to your concern! It bothers me a lot to know that my kids most likely will not remember me as fun and energetic.

My self image is of someone with boundless energy who is running around trying to change/save the world!

I do not know how they see me exactly (I am afraid to ask).

I am often tired and not as available to them as I would like to be.

Cheryl Pitt said...

I found that terribly rude. As facilitator she should have given everyone 10 minutes then there would be plenty of time for you. It's great that she wanted to extend the class but she should know how to work within the time she does have.

It does sound like it will be helpful though. I would imagine a group like that to be a huge blessing and support! Please let us know what happens next time. :)

Robert J. Avrech said...

After our son was niftar, Karen and I were invited to attend a support group. It was, for me, a devastating experience. Some of the men in my group kept going on and on about how it's all from HaShem and we need only daven, yadda yadda. Other men, not Orthodox, were made to feel as if they were lesser human beings for not being ritually observant. I was enraged and felt, as a frum Jew, ashamed. The facilitator refused to step in and guide the insanity.

So, I just got up and walked out.

Never went back.

Karen said the women's groups were better.

Not a shock.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Cheryl -- I cannot criticize the facilitator. I found out later that the group was only meant to be an hour and a half, and I came an hour late! It is certainly not her fault.

It is really quite difficult to judge what course of action is best in a situation like that. Someone else might have preferred to be asked to say something short, rather than wait until the next time.

She does not know me or the group, so she did her best. Though it put me off, I am not really mad at her. I am more frustrated about the fact that I had to miss so much of the meeting. But that was nobody's fault.

Sometimes things just are the way they are.

Robert -- I cannot imagine the (ongoing) trauma of losing a son.

I am sorry that group did not work for you.

Putting together a support group is a bit of an art. Not everyone is appropriate for the same group just because they share the same trauma.

A good group can provide tremendous support. A bad group can make us feel even more alienated and alone.

I have been in groups that were bad for me. It took me a long time to learn to do what you did.

A few months ago, I finally got it. After sitting for 20 minutes with a group of women who made me feel horrible, I finally just got up and left.

My current support group is very different.

I know that had I come on time (or had I been late to the second or third meeting, rather than the first) I would have had a positive experience.

That is why this particular meeting was so very disappointing.