The loss of a child is one of the most devastating experiences a parent can endure. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, parents can feel alone and isolated in their grief, as friends and relatives are often unsure of what to say. However, it is crucial to talk to people who understand the loss. Samost JFCS will begin another new eight-week series of its Parental Bereavement Support Group, starting on April 14, which offers parents a forum to share and heal.
During the bereavement period, a wide array of emotions and symptoms can be experienced, such as denial, self-blame, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety and despair. These are all normal parts of the intense grieving process and the intensity of feelings change as a person moves through bereavement.
“Staffed by trained facilitator, Debra Goldsmith, MSW, the bereavement support group of five mothers bonded, shared, cried, laughed, hugged and remembered,” Susan Weiner says, recalling the first series of this JFCS Parental Bereavement Support Group, which she attended to help her cope with the loss of her son, Joel. “Through this, we each took a step forward in learning to live with the intense sorrow of this lifelong loss of our children. I now have four very dear and close friends with whom I can share anything. This support group has made a tremendous difference in my life and I don’t how I could have coped without it.”
The loss of a child forever affects a parent, and emotions of sadness, anger, and hopelessness are not uncommon. Carole Leiberman, who also attended the group to help her through the loss of her daughter Jamie, recalls, “I remember clearly, feeling so different from everyone, even from my friends, whom I shared so much with. Though they were very caring, I still felt utterly alone. Being a part of a group of people whose reality was my reality, was the opposite. It comforted me, enabled me to sympathize and offer my experience, and what methods of coping helped me. In doing so, it helped me to grieve and grow stronger in the process.”
Eve Bandler also the bereavement group series offered by JFCS, and is hopeful that the new series of groups will help yet another parent as it helped her.
“Losing my son Matthew was an absolute devastation. Adding to the unbearable pain was the feeling of isolation, as I realized that even those who loved my son and me couldn’t begin to understand the complex grief you bear when you outlive your child,” Eve says. “At that time, the Jewish Community offered no parental bereavement support groups, so I spent more than a year attending groups filled with parents whose religious beliefs about the afterlife and rituals surrounding death were different than mine. This further catapulted me into the depths of a serious depression. It wasn’t until I walked into the JFCS Parental Bereavement Support Group, and met women like myself, that I knew that I would no longer be walking this painful, lifelong journey alone. I was now part of a community, as mourners should be.”
If you have lost a child of any age, due to any cause, please join the JFCS Parental Bereavement Group to find comfort, compassion and mutual understanding from others. Grieving does not end with shiva. Sessions begin Tuesday, April 14th through June 2nd, and take place from 7-8:30 PM. To register, please call 856-424-1333. This group is made possible by funding received through a grant by the Jewish Women’s Foundation, in loving memory of Matthew Bandler Minches, Jamie Lieberman, and Joel Weiner.