Grief Counseling Program Blog on Problems within a Bereavement Support Group

Problems occur within any plans.  It is part of life.  Support groups are not immune.  Despite the best plan, the best curriculum,  and best training, one still will encounter various issues within a support group.  If flexible and organized, most issues will not be objectively with the set up or the schedule, but will instead come from within.   With so many personalities and the issue of grief itself, there will be bumps in the road.  Individuals will have certain needs or react different ways. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program

Pre-screening the group can help.  Discovering individuals who do not want to be there or who are not ready to be there is important, but they still can slip through and issues can arise.  Within even the perfect set up, various red flags can emerge.  There may be an unwillingness for most to speak, or long winded individuals.  Some members may be more focused on themselves, or others may feel the group is not helping.  As the leader of the group, it is important to know when to stop and discuss to others privately and how to deal with conflict during the meeting itself.  Please review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Support Group Program

Numerous red flags can emerge within a support group. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program and see if it meets your goals


If preparation for meetings is present, there is still the chance expectations may not meet the desires of group members.  If this is not rectified, then the group is doomed to failure.  It is important for everyone to be on the same page and have a clear understanding of objectives.  This is why is it so important to lay out the schedule and plan, identify the grieving process and help others along the process.

Alan Wolfert describes a variety of problem personalities that can cause issues in a group if it is not met with strong leadership.

One type of personality is an absent one.  This individual misses the majority of meetings or does not do homework.  Some are just to numb from the loss to share. One way to to prevent this is to make the effort to include everyone in the meeting and their importance.  Creating safe ways to introduce this individual to the meeting is key.  Sometimes helping this individual privately is also important.  As long as they are present, sometimes, their passive nature can be permitted as long as the leader understand the member is understanding the process.

An individual who was forced to join the group can be a big problem.  This type of individual will not be receptive and remain standoffish.  Many times, they are only entering the group to please others.  It is important to pre-screen this type of individual but if not, one needs to try to make the person feel as welcome as possible.  If things do not improve, a private meeting with an option to leave the group may be the only alternative.

Other individuals can the opposite problem.  Many of these personalities may push their own agenda.  Some may consider themselves experts on grief.  Initially, this may be a self defense mechanism.  However, a know it all can be detrimental to the group.  Sometimes it is best to thank this type of individual for their knowledge, but to push it to how the individual feels.  Try to pull out the feeling, not their intellect.  Others love to give advice.  Advice obviously as a ground rule is something only given upon request, but many feel the need to advice others.  It is important to correct unsolicited advice in a kind and gentle manner.

Some individuals like to preach.  Their preaching may be long winded as well as unwanted.  Many ways this prevents anyone from every knowing what he or she feels.  It important to keep the question on this individual in how he or she feels, not how others should feel.  Closely related to this or highly spiritual and judgmental individuals who believe everyone should believe the way they do.  It is important to maintain a spiritual atmosphere but also a conclusive one.  An individual who looks to push his or her own religious agenda as a way to cope can be detrimental to the group.

In addition, there are personalities who blame, challenge and interrupt.  Obviously these types of attitudes cause chaos.  One pushes blame away from the source of grief, while the other challenges the competency of the leader, as well as prevents others from sharing.  It is important to not tolerate any type of interruptions and abide by rules of the group.  In regards to challengers, it is important to hear it, but to not allow it to force a debate with you as a leader with a group member.   It is important to not be defensive and allow the group to see through the charade of the challenger.

Understanding the various needs of the support group can help guide everyone through the grief process. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program


Other individuals will try to avoid the grief work through other ways.  They will ramble about things not related to the grief work or look to socialize.  Many of these attitudes are shields to avoid their own pain, so again, it needs to be stopped but in a gentle and caring way.  It is important to keep the group on track and ready.

As a group leader, there will be plenty of challenges in merely planning and organizing the meeting but there are always issues that can arise within the group itself.   Be easy on oneself if it is first time conducting a group.  Evaluate oneself truthfully and see how one managed the problems.  As time continues and one gathers more group experience, one will be better equipped and ready to identify these group distractions and better handle them.

Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.

Source: ” The Understanding Your Grief Support Group Guide: Starting and Leading a Bereavement Support Group” by Alan Wolfert, PhD