Exclusive 15:29 07 May 2024

Solutions from Ukraine: Ukrainian Veterans Fund offers support groups to help cope with loss of loved ones

Groups will comfort and support individuals dealing with loss and provide a safe space for them to share their experiences with others who have been through similar situations.

What is the problem?

Losing a loved one can bring about a range of emotions, such as heartache, sadness, anger, helplessness, guilt, and despair. During this challenging time, it is crucial to have the support of others and to tap into one's inner resilience to move forward.

What is the solution?

The Ukrainian Veterans Fund hosts support groups specifically for those who have lost their loved ones. These meetings, which are both online and in-person, offer assistance from crisis specialists and individuals who have gone through similar experiences. They provide a space for individuals to share their issues, be listened to, and collaborate on finding solutions.

Rubryka spoke with the foundation's psychologists about the project work, which was made possible by the IREX Ukrainian Rapid Response Fund program, which IREX coordinated with support from the US State Department.

How does it work?

A safe circle of people with similar pain and experience

The support groups organized by the Ukrainian Veterans Fund are not therapy groups but rather moderated support meetings led by professional psychologists. These meetings aim to connect individuals for mutual support and equip them with self-help techniques for coping with grief and sadness. Along with this mutual support, group members also receive psychological assistance from trained specialists.

The leaders of these support groups are licensed psychologists who have been staffing the crisis hotline for three years, offering assistance to individuals going through a range of difficult situations and challenges.

"Loss accompanies us throughout life, but we are still not ready for it, even in the conditions of war, even when we understand that war is about death. It is difficult to measure how much our attention is needed by people who lost children, loved ones, and friends. They simultaneously experience emotional pain, sadness, guilt, helplessness, despair… Someone will go through the grieving process on their own. In contrast, someone needs the support of people with similar experiences," Tetiana Varenia, a psychologist at the crisis support line of the Ukrainian Veterans Fund, comments.

Psychologist Tetiana Varenia

According to the psychologist, grief is an individual journey through loss, and without it, a return to one's everyday life is not possible. There are support groups available to aid in this process of healing for those who have lost loved ones.

"Grief is very individual, but it is closely related to relationships, so there should be such groups so that a person in grief has the opportunity to choose whether to remain alone with grief or to go through this difficult path in a small but safe circle of people with similar experiences and pain," Tetiana Varenia adds.

What is unique about support groups from the Veterans Fund?

According to the foundation, the critical aspect of psychological support groups is to establish a safe and trusting environment for individuals to express and work through their feelings of grief openly. This allows them to connect with others with similar experiences, compare their emotions, and receive support without fearing judgment or inappropriate comments such as "You're still young; you'll move on and get married eventually."

The foundation's psychologists receive various questions from individuals seeking help, encompassing various concerns. These include struggles with coping with the loss of a loved one and navigating life without them, as their passing has brought uncertainty to future plans and eroded trust in others. Additionally, there are frequent reports of psychosomatic symptoms such as throat tightness, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, and nausea. Complaints about sleep disturbances are also common, with people struggling to either fall asleep or wake up at 3 a.m. with a mind full of negative thoughts.

Support groups provide a safe space for participants to share and cope with feelings of pain, despair, anger, longing, loneliness, and misunderstanding.

"We have been living in conditions of a full-scale war for the third year. In these conditions, we all need to show patience and humanity to each other, even if there are not enough resources. And it is humanity that we are trying to add to our support groups," the head of the Crisis Support Hotline, Ukrainian Veterans Fund's veteran and psychologist, Oleksandr Chamorsov, says.

Oleksandr Chamorsov, head of the crisis support hotline of the Ukrainian Veterans Fund

"Currently, we offer two support groups for individuals going through loss. One group, focused on gentle support for those who have lost a family member or loved one within the last four months, is held online. Our organization was one of the first in Ukraine to provide this type of support. The group is open and consists of a series of two-hour meetings moderated by our psychologists. The other group, which was announced on May 6, will be held in person and is designed for individuals who have lost a loved one more than four months ago. This group follows the 8-step program for adult support groups for grieving individuals and has been adapted by our psychologists to fit the current needs. It is a closed group and will meet twice a month for a total of eight meetings," Oleksandr Chamorsov says.

New participants can join in on each of the formats. Participation is free of charge.

  • Anyone can sign up for an online support group through this platform. These welcoming groups consist of weekly 2-hour meetings with a maximum of 10-14 participants. The meetings will be held every Friday at 6:00 p.m. on the Google Meet platform. The new group will begin in May. Participants can decide whether to continue attending after the initial meeting.
  • To register for a closed face-to-face support group with a maximum of 8 participants, please click on the provided link. The group will meet every other week on Saturdays at 12:00 p.m. at the comfortable "Personalite" office in Kyiv's Karavaievi Dachi area. There will be a total of 8 meetings, each lasting 3 hours with a short break. The group will begin in either May or June.
  • Prior to forming a group, individuals are offered a one-hour consultation. This meeting will be held online, and the purpose is to get to know each other and address any personal issues that may be difficult to discuss in a group setting.

In addition, all group members, as well as all other people who need psychological support today, can call the Ukrainian Veterans Fund's crisis support hotline 24/7: 0800-33-20-29. At the same time, group members can communicate with the leaders of the support groups they attend if they wish.

It's worth mentioning that since the start of the full-scale invasion, over 4,000 veterans have received psychological support at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.









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