A Port in the Storm – Support Group Leaders Gather in Richmond

~Christine Baggini, Senior Resource Coordinator, Brain Injury Association of Virginia

Port comes from the Latin word portus, meaning “haven” or “harbor.” A port is seen as a place of safe arrival as in the proverb “any port in a storm.” Port is also a verb, meaning “to carry.”

Support group leaders are a tremendously important resource to their local communities.  The job they undertake is to show up every month (or, in some cases more often) and provide a space for people with brain injury and their support systems to come together.  Sometimes the space is for learning, sometimes it’s for crying, and sometimes it is just for being who you are and being accepted as is.

On a rainy Friday in May, during BIAV’s annual Support Group Leader training, sixteen support group leaders from around the state gathered at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for an opportunity to learn and share in a space for themselves.

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It’s Not Always Easy

Leaders of support groups share many common concerns about conducting groups.  Will I find a good speaker? Can I provide information in a way that my group understands? What if not enough people show up?  What if I don’t know how to react or what to say to something a member says?  WHAT will we talk about next?


Our agenda covered a lot of these topics and more – including training on how adults learn, self-advocacy, crisis intervention, and practical tips for leading groups.  The day wrapped up with a fun activity of self-care that involved art and drawing. We learned that by immersing ourselves in an activity that uses the right side of our brain, we can gain a better balance and a sense of calm.

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like your brain is absorbing all sorts of information while, at the same time, coming up with new ideas? That was the feeling at this training.

Some of the people leading groups have been at it for years (even decades).  Some were new at it and a few had not yet started a group, but felt pulled to do so.  Some of the leaders have had a brain injury, or have a family member with one. Some lead a group because it’s part of their job; other professionals start a group because they see a need they can fill. 

So, much like the groups we lead, we were there for different reasons and with different histories.  We questioned each other, contributed, asked and answered questions, listened, and challenged each other. Coming together gave us the chance to learn more than we could do by ourselves.   We talked about a way to stay connected after the training and continue to “be there” for each other.

I believe the people who came learned to trust themselves and their groups and the process that takes hold when people are bonding through a shared struggle. 

I hope the participants found a way to have a voice in their groups.  I think they came away refreshed and energized. 

I know I did.

To find a support group in your area, go to https://www.biav.net/i-have-a-brain-injury/#CommunityResourcesandSupports and scroll down to the box that says “Find a Community Resource”, then select support groups from the drop down list.