Grief & Grub for Guys
Prince George Hospice Society
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Grief support groups allow those who have experienced the loss of a loved one to share their feelings in an empathetic group setting with one another. Prince George Hospice Society (PGHS) is an organization that provides end-of-life hospice care to people in northern British Columbia, a significant part of which involves helping families by providing services such as grief support groups.
Although PGHS has a long history of offering grief support programs and drop-in groups for families and loved ones, there has always been a discrepancy in the number of men who regularly attend. To address the gender gap in attendance, they decided to develop a truly innovative program that served the unique needs and desires of men who are grieving. Rather than a typical support group structure of gathering together in a circle – a comfortable setting for women but not necessarily for men – the PGHS team created a “Grief and Grub for Guys” group that invites men to come together around a dinner meal to share and support each other.
The PGHS team did research into better, novel methods for supporting men through the grief process, and found that men tend to struggle to verbalize their feelings, are less comfortable sitting in a face-to-face forum, and more commonly grieve through action-oriented activities. From this, the idea to create a grief support group centred on a dinner meal was born.
The group is offered through a partnership with the Central Fellowship Baptist Church, whose kitchen and foyer hosts the group each week, for a total of eight weeks. In this “neutral” territory, the men of the group come together, eat, and share experiences. In the process, they support each other and create a strong peer support network. The small size of the groups ensures that the dinner gathering feels normal and comfortable, and each member can feel individually supported. Though each session includes a brief educational presentation, the men have found much value simply in the act of coming together and sharing.
Since the first group was started in May 2015, four groups have run with a total of 17 participants. Feedback from the participants has been positive and enlightening: 100% responded positively when asked for feedback, and all felt they would refer others to the group. One man commented, “I have become much more aware of my grief,” and another said, “It is a very comfortable and easy place to breathe and feel good.” Many of the relationships formed around the dinner table continue outside and beyond the eight-week support group.
Word of the group has spread, and men are now signing up for the groups before the next one begins, as opposed to most of the participants coming from hospice referrals. Staff note that around the group meal, there is an abundance of laughter and support.
Grief and Grub for Guys has successfully built a grief support framework that serves the needs of men, and in one year the program has managed modest but great outcomes. They have created a safe place for men to gather and grieve together, break down barriers, and productively manage their emotional health and wellbeing. The PGHS team plans to continue hosting the groups with a mindset of continuous quality improvement, as well as to spread their work and the knowledge they have gained so that other organizations across British Columbia can improve the grief support that they provide for men.