This is Part II of a blog series about ‘closing’ at The WARM Place – What does it mean to close? When is it time to close? and What happens after I close? You can read Part I of the series here.
One of the most frequently asked questions at The WARM Place is “How long do we attend the groups?” We provide open-ended support groups for children ages 5-18 and their parent or legal guardian. Open-ended groups meet every other week and families attend the groups as long as they find the group helpful. Most families stay for about nine months to a year, with some staying for shorter or longer periods of time. Grief is unique to each individual, so our open-ended format allows children and families to work through their grief at their own pace and in their own time.
Naturally, when we explain our open-ended format, the next question is, “How will I know when my family is ready to leave The WARM Place?” While it is impossible to predict when a family will be ready to leave the program, it is easy to recognize the signs when they occur. Ideally, the decision to leave the program is one that is mutually made between the assigned group director and the family.
Some signs that may indicate a family is ready to close include:
- Feeling connected and supported
- Feeling less lonely, isolated or judged
- Ability to talk openly and honestly about feelings
- Ability to talk openly and honestly about the person who died and the circumstances of the death
- Reduced distress, depression, anger, anxiety or fatigue
- School performance is less or no longer impacted by grief
- Relationship with peers is less or no longer impacted by grief
- Self-Esteem is less or no longer impacted by grief
- Feeling a sense of empowerment and optimism about the future
- Feeling confident that one has gained adequate tools and coping skills to continue grief work away from the group
- Renewed interest in other activities
- Having less to say/share/process in the group
- The focus of attention switches from one’s own grief to helping others that are newer to the group
When a family makes the decision to leave The WARM Place, we invite family members to participate in a special “closing ceremony” to help them reflect on their growth and experiences in the group, share hopes for the future and say goodbye to the group. Children are given a special gift to help remind them of the things they learned in the group that will help them as they continue their grief journey away from The WARM Place.
It is important to mention that not all family members process their grief at the same pace, so it is possible for some family members to close while others continue in the program. Likewise, it is possible for a family to leave The WARM Place and return later should the need arise.
Some families wonder how to continue their grief journey after leaving their group at The WARM Place. In the last part of this blog series, we will cover what happens next. If you have any questions about our open-ended format, or if you would like to discuss closing with one of our current group directors, please feel free to call our office at (817) 870-2272.