Darien offers free support group for those struggling with grief, loss to ‘come together to connect’

Town Hall in Darien, Conn., photographed on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

Town Hall in Darien, Conn., photographed on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021.

Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

DARIEN — Local parents struggling with feelings of loss may find comfort in a new town-provided service: a free grief support group that offers residents a space to connect with others battling similar emotions.

The support group, which has two sessions scheduled later this month, is the latest service offered in the wake of a recent spate of local tragedies, which officials have said underscore a need for more mental health support in town.

Darien partnered with Newport Academy, a national health-care provider that operates several “healing centers” for adolescents with mental health disorders, to provide residents with three group sessions in July at no cost.

The first session earlier this month allowed parents and community members to lead organic discussions on topics they felt were important, said Erin Swett, a licensed clinical social worker with Newport. Professionals with Newport were on hand to offer additional resources if residents asked for more support.

The town has planned three sessions in total, but it is open to continuing the support group indefinitely, Swett said.

“The intent is to have folks coming together to connect, to offer support during this time, whatever that looks like,” Swett said. “The thing with grief and depression is that responses to local tragedies can differ person to person.”

The group was created as a response to highlight the importance of talking about mental health issues and addressing difficult topics — such as suicide.

Earlier this year, two Darien teenagers died by suicide within a two-month timeframe, sparking a communitywide spotlight on mental health struggles in town. School and town officials have said they are planning on examining long-term support services this summer. One such resource, a Darien mental health task force, is already in the works.

Two additional support sessions will be held July 13 and July 27. Participants can join remotely or in-person, and sessions run from 6 to 7 p.m.

“Hopefully we can draw more people and they can come and feel connected to each other during this time,” Swett said.

Sessions will take place on Zoom and in-person at Newport Academy, 85 Old Kings Highway N. Suite 1A, Darien.