DIX HILLS, New York (WCBS) -- CBS2 is shining a spotlight on community heroes, because we are #BetterTogether.
A Long Island hero is helping to heal grieving heart. She started her own support group after she lost a loved one.
With each new member, it is an agonizing introduction to a group no one wishes they needed to join. But after what they have all been through -- losing their spouses -- they don't know how they would get by without it.
"There's a lot of people that need help with grief, that are hurting," said Kathryn Monaco Douglas, founder of Widowed Not Alone. "What do they say? 'Hurt people hurt people,' but healed people heal people."
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Her late husband, Larry, died suddenly due to a blood clot almost 20 years ago, leaving her and their three kids behind.
She tried to turn to grief support groups right away, but there were rules. Most don't allow new members until three months after their loss.
Douglas didn't like that.
"I needed help the first three months, desperately," said Douglas. "And no one would take me."
So eventually, she started up her own support group, "Widowed Not Alone."
The group meets once a week, for eight weeks at a time. It's for young widows and widowers under the age of 65 living on Long Island.
Douglas breaks up each group based on age, so members can relate better to one another. Each meeting is free, and they can join right away.
"I didn't want anyone to turn anyone away the way they turned me away when I was at my darkest," Douglas said.
Douglas went through a year-long training process and, at first, started small. But now, she has helped thousands struggling with loss of loved ones.
During COVID, she went virtual, allowing her to stretch her lived experience across the world.
"Everyone that comes into my group basically has been traumatized in some way," Douglas said. "So the thing is to be more aware. If you understand what is happening to you, you can help yourself."
"The group just helps you connect with other people, because you go through so many emotions, you think you're going crazy at some point," Merrick resident Peter McGee said.
McGee joined in 2018 after his wife died when she was just 45. He is now one of Douglas' 30 volunteer facilitators, helping others similar to how Douglas helped him.
"One of the biggest things that stuck with me when she said, 'the worst thing happened to you, so what do you have to fear?'" said McGee. "And so that clicked in my head and that changed my outlook."
When asked how Douglas wants members to feel when they walk out of the group meetings, she responded with a smile.
"There is always hope, we are stronger than we think we are," said Douglas. "At the end of each group, I give everyone a rock -- from Long Island -- that says 'hope,' and that's my word... . Because I believe that there was a time that I thought I couldn't live anymore. I thought I could only live with my husband and that I couldn't be a good mother for my children without him. I learned that I could raise my kids solo, I could do it, and I could do this."
Never moving on from their losses, but with proper support, they're learning to move forward, together.
Visit this link for more information: widowednotalone.com
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