Gary Sturgis

Support Group Facilitator and Guest Speaker

My husband, Rob, was diagnosed with stage IV malignant melanoma cancer in June of 2013 and died on January 24, 2014. The grief was unbearable. I found myself crying and feeling so alone. I had lost not only my partner in life but my best friend. I didn’t want to go on without him. I just wanted to give up.

Two months later I found myself sitting in a grief support group at Hope Floats in Kingston. I found it so helpful to hear others share their feelings and their personal walk through loss and grief. We all had one thing in common, the person we loved died. I found people just like me and I no longer felt alone. We all were looking for answers while needing to talk about the person we loved. Being together gave us hope and the most important thing we learned is that nobody should have to grieve alone. The group was instrumental in giving me the tools I needed to find peace and happiness again in my shattered life.

After a year passed and I had attended a couple of groups I decided I never wanted anyone to feel alone. I signed up to take a nine week training class through Cranberry Hospice in Plymouth to train to be a grief support group facilitator. I wanted to pass forward the knowledge, support and encouragement that was given to me on my grief journey.

I have learned that groups are all so unique and different and so are the people in them. One of the best things about each group is the reminder that nobody is alone. Grief can feel very lonely and isolating, especially when nobody else around you seems to be grieving. Although no two people experience grief in the exact same way, by attending a support group people find others with the same experiences, feelings and struggles as their own. It feels good to be a part of a group and to feel accepted and validated. Experiencing the death of a loved one can make people feel different. Grief is not a club anyone wants to belong to but once they are in it there is a great benefit to surrounding themselves with other members.

There is healing in helping and giving. Facilitating grief support groups has taught me a lot about myself and has provided me the opportunity to use my own experience to help others. I didn’t realize how much I had learned in my own journey until I found myself guiding and supporting others in their struggle with grief. It is truly a gift to be able to help others navigate their way through the maze of grief in a very personal and meaningful way.