Mourners find peace in a grief support group-Part 3
Yvonne David suffered the loss of her father last September and joined a grief support group sponsored by the Jewish Pavilion and VITAS Innovative Hospice Care. Held at Chambrel at Island Lake, a Brookdale Senior Living Community, this grief support group has helped her mourn, adjust and embrace life again. David’s articles about the first three weeks of the class and the last three weeks of the class were published in the May 9 and the June 20 issues respectively. This third and final article is about the follow-up meeting one month later.
A month following the completion of the six-week bereavement group sessions, Rabbi Maurice Kaprow set up one last meeting to see how the participants had fared during the past 30 days.
Rabbi Kaprow mentioned how everyone had grown during the grief support group sessions. He went on to explain how one of the important aspects of healing is to keep active following the loss of a loved one. Engage in the business of life again!
As you learn to live without your loved one, network and be around others to find your niche. There are many organizations that have volunteer opportunities, such as the sisterhood of a synagogue, Hadassah and Ort. Joining a widows’ group or a social organization can also help. Making new friends while helping others are the positives that come out of affiliating with a group, even while we still mourn our loss.
Significant dates without our loved ones inevitably arise.
“How did you feel on your father’s birthday?” the rabbi asked me.
I held my breath. It was hard, I thought. But...
During the hiatus from the bereavement group, my father’s first birthday since his passing inescapably came around. The emotional void I felt started to grow inside me, but then I tried to focus on his smiling face, his infectious chuckle and one of his amazing survival stories. However, I wanted to have a stronger connection to him; to do something that we had shared together.
He was famous for his ratatouille. Better than in Provence, a friend had once told my father and me. How we had laughed about that! I used to make boeuf bourguignon to accompany his French vegetable stew. But on my father’s birthday last month, my husband and my son helped in cooking these dishes. It became a family affair for a new generation. It was a wonderful day of togetherness, with my father very much in our hearts and minds.
As we relished the tasty food, we also savored the memories we had shared with my father, such as the time when grandfather and grandson cooked up a surprise romantic dinner for my husband and me at our home. My father wore a large chef’s hat and apron, while my son dressed in a black suit, white shirt and bowtie. It was a formal occasion with a three-course meal and a menu printed on posh watermarked paper. Of course, ratatouille was on the menu!
While precious recollections are part of us, we shall always feel the loss. The first year is the most difficult; the wound of loss is the most raw. All of a sudden something may trigger a wave of sadness. It is perfectly normal. A bond with these individuals was forged for so many years and it was taken away. Although there is no timetable for healing, attending this grief support group provides a way to grow. “Time heals” is a cliché, but it is the truth.
There are many ways of remembering our loved ones. Yiskor is a special memorial prayer to recite four times a year in synagogue, a sanctified connection to our loved ones who have passed. Giving to charity in their names honors their memories. However you chose to remember your loved one, it is the correct way for you. Your loved one was here, and he or she will continue to impact your life.
While mourning our loved ones, we must also understand our limitations. We must take care of ourselves. Eat better, exercise, rest. We can give up some of our responsibilities and develop the strength to say no. Read a favorite book of our loved ones, go out and do things with our families, enjoy the day. We can still embrace special memories of our loved ones. For example, looking through old photos can warm the heart and make us smile.
I asked Rabbi Kaprow for some advice about cleaning out my parents’ home of the past 31 years, as there will be a great deal of looking through things. It is a daunting prospect for me this summer in England.
The rabbi looked at me with a gentle understanding. “Look forward to what treasures you might find. Do not dread the task. It will be hard. Yes. There will be plenty of tears, but it is also an opportunity to celebrate the life of your loved one,” he said. “Revisit those childhood memories. It may even be rewarding to learn more about your father.”
Jewelry and silver are prized possessions without a doubt, but a hand-made tapestry-covered stool which my mother made and a framed collection of participants’ commemorative pins during my father’s captaincy of Lawn Bowls in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Perth, Australia, are somehow more sentimental. Travel slides in the thousands of Europe, America, East and South Africa are another of my parents’ riches.
As Rabbi Kaprow stressed, “If you can hold fast to the love and the memories, you will be a much stronger and more centered person to carry on these sentiments to the next generation.”
The grief support group offered by the Jewish Pavilion and VITAS Innovative Hospice Care will again be held at Chambrel at Island Lake in Longwood during the fall. I applaud these organizations for their admirable work in this regard, and I strongly recommend this six-week course for anyone who is in need of grief counseling. Rabbi Maurice Kaprow provided an invaluable service through his knowledge, insight and caring.
Yvonne David is a writer and an award-winning author. For further information, please visit: http://www.appletreeseries.com.