Here at Wellesley, we are constantly reminded of community. Whether it is through orgs, sports or dorms, Wellesley students show up and create safe, comfortable spaces for each other. While we are aware of these very present and active groups, they tend to escape our minds in times of mental and emotional strife. And because so much of dealing with mental illness and hardships seems to be an individual activity, it is pretty easy to get caught up in one’s own head. Support groups on campus, however, create a community space specifically for students who are struggling with varying issues, including those who have lost a parent. The Grief Group on campus acts as just this space.
The Grief Group is a support group “for students who are coping with the loss of a parent/parental figure,” according to the counseling services website. It is led by Alex Prior and Kaeley Majewski, and meets Fridays from 12:30-1:30 in the Stone Center Conference Room. The group meets in confidentiality and gives students “an opportunity to share their current lives and speak out about the impact of the death of a family member.” Once joining, students remain members until they graduate. The group has been running for 20 years now and throughout that time, has provided an essential resource to those looking for a way to cope with parental loss at Wellesley. For those who are struggling with grief, and who equally struggle with finding people that can empathize rather than sympathize, this group is for you.
Prior is a licensed independent clinical social worker and staff member of the Stone Center. The Grief Group functions with “students sharing their grief story and then proceed into students processing their happy/crappy’s of the week. We then move into general sharing about grief feelings and experiences,” according to Prior. Special to the Grief Group, as well as the other niche support groups, is the idea that it is a space specifically made for the issue at hand. Students enter these spaces with shared experiences, shared feelings and shared identity. Prior notes that “it is important for students to not feel alone and it is validating for them to be with other students in similar situations, as they understand. Being understood and not having to explain one’s feelings and experiences is very important. They get each other’s pain. It helps with the grief and the healing; it is a process that takes time and the group allows the process to take place with others who care and understand.”
As a therapist, Prior also sees first-hand the benefits of the Grief Group on the students, watching their growth from the first time they walk into the space to their graduation. “It is extremely rewarding to help students grow, develop, heal and persevere during incredibly difficult and trying times. We are there for the students and each of the students are there for each other,” says Prior. With supportive members and supportive staff, it is easy to see why these groups do such great things for Wellesley’s community.
Support groups as a whole over the past decade or so have grown increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. Groups typically have a common identity throughout the members within it, and with that identity, they also have a shared sense of purpose, according to the American Psychological Association. Specific to Wellesley, support groups allow the chance to find friendships in people who have similar experiences and can support with whatever niche needs you have. Support groups are also offered at no extra cost and in general are much cheaper than one on one psychotherapy. They are also more accessible, as long-term therapy services are usually off campus, whereas support groups occur in the Stone Center, providing easier access for all students.
For those looking for a group on grief that is not specifically structured around parental loss, there occasionally has been a second grief group offered at Wellesley and can be requested through Jan Park, Stone’s group and outreach coordinator. For those interested specifically in the Grief Group, Prior says students “can schedule a 30 minute appointment with [her] or Kaeley Majewski to explore how the group works, their questions and concerns and decide whether the group is a good fit at that time in their life. They can email us or call the office at 781-283-2839 to schedule the half hour initial meeting.”
As Prior elaborates eloquently, “grief is a difficult process to endure, feel and manage. It erodes a person’s ability to concentrate, reach out and be social, sometimes sleep and eat. Being with fellow students who are grieving can bring back a sense of community and belonging and normalize the feelings and process of grief.” Support groups like the Grief Group can help shoulder the hardships life hands us, and are an excellent resource the Stone Center provides on campus.
If you or someone you know may benefit from one of the many support groups on campus, visit the Stone Center’s website for more information. Many of these groups, including the Grief Group, require pre-registration beforehand, and you can call to register at 781-283-2839.