Once a loved one dies, the desire to isolate can be overwhelming. Spending time alone to rest, meditate, and remember is restorative, but grief experts tell us shunning others ultimately won’t bring peace. It’s important to find people who can help us work through the grieving process. Sometimes these people can be family members and friends, but sometimes we need to engage with groups or professionals who can truly understand our pain and help us recover. Here are a few resource groups my husband Dave and I used to find the peace we so desperately needed.

1. Al-Anon Family Groups

Being grieving parents of a son lost to a drug overdose could have led us to isolate out of fear we’d be judged as unfit parents or our boy be dismissed as a junkie who got what he deserved. It’s possible that there were people who held these opinions, but a year or so before our son Ben died God led Dave and me to Al-Anon, a support group that understood our pain as parents of an addict, and it was Al-Anon that helped us bear the initial heartbreak of his death. We were allowed to speak our truth without judgment and received the support we needed to live without shame. Al Anon is available in every state and most countries around the world. To learn more please visit their website at www.al-anon.alateen.org.

2. Grief Groups

Dave and I also joined three different grief groups dedicated to parents who had lost adult children. One of these groups was sponsored by a local church, another was a city-based group that featured grief professionals from a variety of fields so we could network as needed, and the third was a private-practice duo of social workers. The first two groups helped us find spiritual comfort and positive ways to communicate our grief and rebuild our relationship with God, while the private-practice group allowed us the greatest opportunity to share the rawest moments of our suffering. As with all members of this group, we started immediately following Ben’s death. We were still in shock and often not able to articulate or even identify our feelings. We talked about Ben in the present tense and often repeated “day of his death” stories. The intense emotions we shared have bonded us to this group for life. Even after seven years, we stay in touch with fellow members through Facebook and other social media.

3. Special Interest Groups

Through encouragement from Al-Anon and our other support groups, Dave and I have started to cultivate hobbies we had put aside for years. I love to write so I’ve taken writing classes offered by the continuing education departments of colleges that in the past I’d only dream about attending, and through these classes I’ve developed associations with like-minded writers. I’ve even been lucky enough to get a few pieces published!

With the help of agriculture experts, Dave took his gardening interests to a whole new level by transforming 14 acres of bare farm land into a vineyard he tends on weekends and evenings. This coming fall we should be able to celebrate our first full grape harvest.

Dave and I have learned to rebuild our lives. We’ve placed our trust in God and He’s led us to people who have helped us create a place where pain and peace can coexist. I encourage all who suffer from the ravages of grief not to isolate, but to reach out. Others can lead the way to a life of peace and acceptance, and visiting Open to Hope is a great first-step.


Joni Norby

Joni M. Norby retired from California State University, Fullerton where she served as Associate Dean and Lecturer for Business Communications. She earned her MBA from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas and has studied creative nonfiction and poetry as part of Stanford University's Online Writing Series and at The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Along with writing, Joni owns and operates a vineyard in California's Central Valley along with her husband, Dave.

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