What To Expect At Your First Support Group Meeting
M.E.N.D. prides itself on consistency throughout our organization. Each chapter is required to follow a similar format for our meetings and each Chapter Director must attend a training meeting in our Dallas headquarters before launching their chapter. As such, you can expect a very casual environment in which to share your experience with others who understand what you might be going through. Some meetings are larger than others, ranging from less than 10 regular attendees to more than 30 each month.
Our meetings never feature "keynote" speakers or special programs. Each family is given the opportunity to introduce themselves and share briefly about their children — both living and not. Then the topic for discussion is simply up to those in attendance. Usually conversations gravitate toward upcoming holidays or the anticipation of due dates and heavenly birthdays for members present. Other times conversation may include seeking advice on how to handle difficult extended family situations or the insensitivity of friends or colleagues.
I'm sad already. Are M.E.N.D. support group meetings a bunch of people crying?
Because M.E.N.D. meetings are viewed as "safe places" the atmosphere of the meeting varies — some are "heavier" than others but often meetings are somewhat light-hearted. Many times M.E.N.D. members find themselves laughing for the first time since their loss without fear of those around them thinking they are "done" grieving. Many chapter directors feel that to truly "get" a M.E.N.D. meeting, you need to attend more than once, but likely the emotion of the meeting will be different from month to month.
Who attends M.E.N.D. meetings?
M.E.N.D. meetings are restricted to adults only. Mothers and fathers are invited to attend, as are other friends or family members they wish to join them, such as a grandparent or close friend. Occasionally our members will become pregnant again. Most chapters are not large enough to warrant a Subsequent Pregnancy Group, so those mothers and fathers who are expecting after a loss are welcomed to continue to attend our monthly meetings. As such, you may have a very pregnant woman at your first meeting. We understand this might be difficult, but remember that mother has had a loss before this pregnancy or may have received a terminal diagnosis for her baby. Although we rejoice at each healthy subsequent birth, we do not allow babies or children to attend our meetings.
Guidelines for Sharing
- Everyone's experiences are different and are not to be compared as one being worse than another. Please keep in mind that some people heal sooner than others and we ask that you accept one's way of dealing with grief may be different than yours.
- We invite you to share your emotions and feelings as freely as you wish. Feel free to cry, vent, or whatever you need to do to release emotions. If you need to leave the room, someone will follow to be sure you are okay.
- Should you wish to share a bad experience with the group, we ask that you refrain from using anyone's name or the name of an institution.
- We ask that everything discussed at the share group remain confidential. Please respect the privacy rights of everyone attending.
- Share time will conclude at 9:00 p.m., but feel free to stay longer to visit if you wish.
M.E.N.D. meetings are a time set aside for the sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences of those who have lost a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. M.E.N.D. is not a professional counseling service nor are any of the organizers professional counselors.