In a post several weeks ago, I discussed my goal to start a support group for people with chronic illnesses. I am happy to report that a plan is quickly coming together. In fact things came together so quickly that the first meeting will be held before the end of this month.
I thought I would use the popular “FAQ” (or Frequently Asked Questions) format to provide you with the details.
Question: When will the first meeting be held?
Answer: The first meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 29, 2019.
Question: Where will the first meeting be held?
Answer: At the First Christian Church in Alexandria, Virginia located at: 2723 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia (see the link below for information on the group as well as directions to the church).
Question: What is the purpose of this support group?
Answer: After six years of dealing with a chronic illness, I feel like I have been called to start a support group for those who are managing chronic illnesses. While there may be a variety of illnesses that potential group members are managing, many of the issues are the same for each
There are a number of purposes for this group. Once we figure out topics of interest to the members, we can work together to bring in doctors and other professionals to provide information and answer questions on common issues. We can also identify books and other resources that members may want to consult to help them manage chronic illness. But another important purpose of the group is to give members a forum and safe environment to address their frustrations and celebrate their successes in dealing with their issues, and learning the perspectives and solutions of others. Flexibility in tailoring the group meetings to meet the needs of the members is important to me.
Question: How often will the group meet, and can you provide a calendar of dates so we can plan to attend?
Answer: The intention is for the group to meet once a month on a weekend day. It makes sense to have at least an initial meeting or two to determine what days and times work best for the members. Then we can set a definite time frame going forward.
Question: Why is the meeting being held at a church?
Answer: The reason the meetings are being held in this church is because I have been a member of this church for years. I am proud to say that our philosophy is that the church is open hearted, open minded, and open to all. The church also has a number of meeting rooms, and a variety of different groups meet at this location throughout the week (for example, AA groups). So I believe it is an environment that encourages open discussions and welcomes and embraces all who enter the church. Believing in a particular faith or any faith is not necessary to be a member of this group.
Question: Who do you anticipate will attend this group?
Answer: Of course, I anticipate that people who are managing a chronic illness will attend. But there will also be a pastoral presence at the meeting, and perhaps other church members or friends who do not have chronic illnesses but want to help support the group. Additionally, as we figure out the type of advice and presentations to help us manage chronic illness issues, we can network to find professionals who might be willing to address the group on these topics.
Question: Why will there be a pastoral presence?
Answer: In my experience, I have found ministers, chaplains and ministerial candidates to be very experienced in dealing with challenging life circumstances such as chronic illnesses. So the pastoral presence is meant to help us guide the discussion to identify issues that are relevant to each member, and to help facilitate the discussions. Additionally, clergy professionals have a network of contacts that they can use to help us get out the word about the support group and help us develop resources we can use.
In fact, when I started to develop a plan for a chronic illness support group, I consulted my minister and he gave me a number of ideas. But one thing that stuck with me was the comment “Don’t overlook the idea of inviting professionals to your meetings.” Noteworthy, he didn’t say “clergy professionals” or “faith based professionals” he said “professionals”, by which he meant medical professionals, nutritionists, physical therapists and others who can help us learn how to cope with the issues that radiate from having a chronic illness. So having a pastoral presence at the meetings will bring a neutral perspective and point out some very practical things that we might be missing because we are so overwhelmed by our conditions.
Question: What if I am interested in the group, but am concerned that at times my chronic fatigue may prevent me from attending a meeting?
Answer: Having dealt with the often overwhelming and unexpected bouts of fatigue, I totally understand that there will be times when members will be unable to attend. Or other times when they are not fatigued but have other commitments. Hey – life happens to each of us. My minister has advised me to not be upset if there is some ebb and flow to the meetings. It may take a while for the word to get out, and so it may also take a while to build a group. So I am not concerned that people may drop in and drop out, and that we may not become the most popular event on the block. If we have only a few people attend a meeting but they each leave with the sense that something was accomplished, then that is a good thing.
So those are the questions and answers that occurred to me as I wrote this blog post. But I have one question that only you can answer. If you’re interested in becoming a member of the group, what are the issues that concern you? What would you like the group to address at meetings? In other words, my inquiring mind wants to know what is on your mind. So please feel free to reach out to me with questions that I can answer for you.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. Since that time, she has been learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth.