The Benefits of Attending an Ostomy Support Group

February 22,2021 |
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Getting an ostomy changes your life in more ways than one. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with new products, get comfortable changing your pouching system, and begin to educate yourself on living with an ostomy. With these physical changes, many new ostomates find that they begin to struggle mentally. Life changes, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do everything you love—even if it may seem that way at first. The best thing to do if you’re struggling with your ostomy surgery is to find an ostomy support group near you. Becoming part of a community has proven to positively impact your mood and overall demeanor. If you’re not fully convinced, here are the benefits of attending an ostomy support group.

  1. A Sense of Community

    One of the biggest benefits of attending an ostomy support group is the sense of community that you gain. You come to the realization that you’re not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes. A lot of people are hesitant about attending a support group because they don’t think they’ll feel the same, but once you go to your first meeting, you’ll be surprised at your change in outlook. Ostomy support groups provide a feeling of acceptance rather than alienation. Everyone in attendance has something in common and people without ostomies are the minority during group. This creates a comfortable environment for everyone to grow together, form relationships, and open up about their struggles.

  2. Expressing Feelings

    With that being said, the longer you’re in an ostomy support group, the more comfortable you get with openly expressing your feelings. You know that everyone around you will not judge you for whatever you’re feeling or thinking, and group gives you a way to get it off your chest. Depending on the support group, you may be able to bring loved ones to the meeting to better communicate what you’re going through. This is especially helpful when you don’t feel comfortable talking about your feelings at home or you want your partner or family to better understand what you’re going through. Ostomy support group is a safe place. 

  3. Increasing Knowledge

    In addition to regularly scheduled meetings, many ostomy support groups have a variety of speakers come in to educate everyone on different things happening in the ostomy world. These speakers can consist of nurses, surgeons, dieticians, or even manufacturers of common ostomy products. During their time in your group, you’ll be able to keep up to date with changes to products, surgeries, or healthy lifestyle tips.

    Professional speakers are great, but you may find that you learn even more from simply listening to the other people in the ostomy support group. Hearing what members have to say about their struggles, their favorite products, or how they manage their lifestyle can help you find a solution for a problem you’re facing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try to view everyone as a resource.

  4. Strengthen Social Skills

    Some individuals are great at networking and meeting new people. Some prefer to only associate with people they know. Regardless of if you’re naturally extroverted or introverted, attending an ostomy support group can help you strengthen your social skills. By simply showing up to your meeting, you’ll be put in a situation where you’ll want to meet and talk to others. Consider this practice. If you’re nervous at first, just keep going. Commit to a few months and see what a difference it makes. You’ll learn how to interact with others more effectively and help to boost your confidence when speaking with strangers. This has beneficial real-world applications. Since ostomies can lead to mental distress, and isolation often makes distress worse, a support group where you can interact socially is detrimental to living a happy, fulfilling life.

  5. Lower Distress

    As we mentioned, the social aspect that an ostomy support group provides has a positive effect on your overall mental health. Since the goal of these support groups are to talk about what you’re struggling with and listen to how others overcame their negative thoughts or situations, you’ll get help with overcoming discomfort associated with having an ostomy. The longer you’re a part of a group, the better you’ll feel. As you begin to feel better, you may notice that you’re more optimistic and begin to enjoy activities again. If you aren’t beginning to feel an impact on any distress or discomfort, consider supplementing your support group with a licensed therapist. You may find that you do your best when you have both a group and a more private setting to discuss different concerns.

  6. Gaining Hope

    As you begin to address your concerns, you’ll simultaneously notice that your hopefulness for the future begins to return. This is especially true during your first few meetings with your support group. It’s empowering to see other people overcome the same mental struggles or physical challenges as you’re currently facing. Where you may have felt powerless before, you now see opportunity. Your group acts as positive role models and shows you that anything is possible, ostomy or not.

  7. Understand Yourself Better

    Navigating through an ostomy surgery can make you feel a little lost—especially while you’re still learning about and getting comfortable with changing your ostomy bag. Attending an ostomy support group regularly can help you better understand yourself as it shows you how you process information and change. It allows you to get an outside look on your coping mechanisms so that you can address your feelings in a healthier way. Before you attend a meeting, make sure that you keep an open mind and take what others have to say to heart. You’ll be able to get a better understanding on strategies that helped them overcome the same feelings you’re currently experiencing.

  8. The Ability to Help Others

    When you make your meetings a regular part of your routine, you’ll slowly transition from the new ostomate to an expert in the field. This gives you a unique position to offer help, guidance, and comfort to any new members. Even if there are no new attendees, you’ll begin to give back to your peers as you begin to make your own progress through acceptance and ostomy management. Just because you haven’t had an ostomy for as long as someone else does not mean that you can’t offer help. Everyone has their own experiences and together the group gets stronger.

  9. Affordable and Convenient

While some people might benefit from individualized therapy, the cost can add up over the years. A good thing about ostomy support groups is that they’re affordable, many times free. This makes them readily available for anyone, regardless of financial situations or insurance details. There are also plenty of locations across the country, making it convenient and fairly easy to find a meeting. Before you commit, try going to a few different groups around you to find one that fits your schedule and that you feel comfortable in. Just remember, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. 

If you need an ostomy, try to see it in a positive light. Yes, you will have to make some changes to your everyday routine and overall lifestyle, but ostomies are lifesaving procedures that allow you to spend more time with your family and friends enjoying what you love most. There will be an adjustment period but try to schedule an ostomy support group meeting as soon as possible. The earlier you surround yourself with individuals who are living with the same struggles, fears, and uncertainties as you, the sooner you’ll start to feel better, manage your ostomy better, and become more optimistic for your future. To find a meeting, look on the list of support groups affiliated with The United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA). UOAA is a national, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports, empowers, and advocates for people who have had or will have ostomy or continent diversion surgery. In addition to providing local options for support, they offer a variety of resources for new and existing ostomates.

To make your ostomy management as easy as possible, opt for high-quality, medical grade ostomy supplies from Byram Healthcare. We carry a wide range of ostomy supplies including pouching systems, skin barriers, and helpful products to improve the quality of life for ostomates around the country. To get started, check out our product selection guide today.