JF&CS News Winter 2013

old hand holding young handWhen Nancy's* younger sister passed away after a two-year struggle with cancer, she was bereft. Her parents had died years before and with her sister's passing, she felt alone. Even with the support of her loving husband, Nancy was overwhelmed by a sorrow she'd never felt before. But one night she received an email about a Jewish Family & Children's Service bereavement support group that would help lift her from her grief.

"After my sister passed away I was feeling a sense of emotional devastation. I really needed a group to deal with this grief," she said. "I saw the email and thought, ‘This is exactly what I need.' It was meant to be."

The bereavement group, run by Program Specialist Barbara Sternfield, is one of the services provided by JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections (JHC). "All JHC programs help people feel a sense of connection when facing the challenges of illness, loss, or isolation by offering spiritual and communal supports to foster hope, comfort, and wholeness guided by Jewish tradition," explained Marjorie Sokoll, Director of JHC. In addition to the weekly support group, JHC offers a bi-weekly drop-in group and individual spiritual support.

Nancy was one of a group of women that met for eight weeks at JF&CS Headquarters in Waltham, all of whom had lost sisters. "That was a very important part of the group process. It was such a special bond," she said. "Knowing that I had a place to share that terrible sorrow with others who had shared a similar loss was very healing,"

Group leader Barbara, who has thirty years of experience in communal services and bereavement support, said, "The group offered Nancy a place where she was welcome. She could come and feel safe and express how she was feeling and be recognized and honored for her relationship with her sister. With the support of the group she knew that she was not alone with her grief; she was part of a caring community."

Almost a year has passed since her sister's death and Nancy feels she is through the most acute stage of grief. "I have a new identity as an only child. It is a new way of being in the world," she said. The friendships formed by the women in the group have lasted beyond their weekly meeting. They still get together, go out for dinner, and check in with each other. "It's very comforting. There's a very special kind of bond," said Nancy.

Bereavement Services, made possible through the generosity of the George and Beatrice Sherman Family Trust, offers support groups, individual spiritual support, and holiday bereavement workshops for people dealing with loss.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

For more information, call 781-647-JFCS (5327) or email your questions via our contact us page.