Benefits of Support Groups: Guest Blog by Shelley Martinkus
We are so excited to share today's guest blog from Shelley Martinkus. Shelley’s world fell apart 18 years ago when she discovered her husband was struggling with sexual integrity issues. Her passion is to help women find wholeness and healing after betrayal. She is an author, speaker, group facilitator and life coach. She would love to connect with you on instagram @shelley_martinkus as well as at rlforwomen.com.
It was almost eighteen years ago. My heart - battered and bruised desperately wanting to connect with another that knew my pain. To be seen, to be heard. To be able to fall apart and for others to hold that space for me.
That unmet need is where God pressed into my heart and gave me a vision for the future - to create that space for other women where they could be fully accepted, loved and sheltered so that they indeed could fall apart.
Holding space for women didn’t happen overnight. I needed to do at least some of my own healing first. And so, about five years into my process - I started my first support group. It was a complete game changer in my journey. Little did I know the group was just as much for me as it was for them. My healing would continue alongside the amazing women that stepped up and said “yes”.
If you find yourself desperately wanting to connect with others that share a similar story to you - I highly encourage you to seek out a group. Below are four benefits of the support group process -
#1 - I realized I was NOT alone
First, being a part of a support group helped me to see that I wasn’t alone in my feelings and thoughts. This was huge because in the depths of my pain, it was easy for me to feel so incredibly alone and as if nobody understood. As I listened to the other women, I saw myself in them. This shift from feeling so alone to apart of a sisterhood was an absolute game changer. I was able to draw on the other women for strength when I had none.
#2 - I began to accept myself
I had struggled with being fully known - both with myself and others - for as long as I can remember. So, being in a structured support group where we had to share our deeper thoughts and emotions stretched me. Could I trust the other women with the real me? Would they accept me in my brokenness?
The answer was a resounding yes. AND - bonus - their acceptance of the real me (not the edited version of me) allowed ME to begin to fully accept MYSELF.
#3 - I learned to love myself through loving the other women
As I sat with the other women in their pain - crying with them, giving them compassion and care as well as empathizing - I realized that I needed to give this kind of love to myself as well. I was crippled by the negative beliefs that came out of the pain I was experiencing and holding onto what I saw in the other women and what they saw in me, helped me rise above the lies.
#4 - I learned how to trust again
My experiences that led to needing group support caused me to question my trust for anyone or anything, including God. I only wanted to trust myself so as not to get hurt again. Operating from a place of distrust slowly started to crack my already weary soul. I knew that this was no way to live.
I didn’t realize that one of the biggest benefits of the support group process was learning to let others in. And specifically learning to trust again. Flexing that trust muscle with safe people allowed me to step outside that circle in the months to come and allow others back in (again, that showed they were safe for me to trust).
Ladies, this is truly the tip of the iceberg because the benefits of support groups are never-ending. Facilitating support groups has become one of my greatest passions in life and I believe in them with my whole heart.
You are worth investing in yourself in this way. If you are looking for a group, I would suggest researching a support group that specifically supports the type of loss you have experienced. Whether that loss is the loss of a parent, child, spouse, or an experience of trauma or betrayal, group support with safe women who have gone through a similar loss can be so healing.