By Helene Cooper, LCSW-C
Shiva is over. Everyone has gone home. The house was filled with people, filled with life. Family, friends and acquaintances all came to perform the mitzvah of sharing this loss, while attempting to balance sadness, support for you, and this new reality that says “life goes on, no matter what.” Now the house is empty. The little chairs are gone, the mirrors uncovered. You look in the mirror and you don’t know who you are. You only know that the world as you knew it has shifted, and your life is changed, forever. A part of you is gone.
The sun is shining and warm, flowers are blooming, the sky is blue — but not for you. Your world is darker, colder, colorless, and void of beauty. You feel alone. The road ahead looks dark, and you wonder if you will be able to find your way.
Family and friends will call. They will come to visit and take you out into the world. They will do their job of trying to be your link to the world of the living. They will listen to you, be with you when you cry, hold your hand, and try to comfort you. Sometimes they won’t know what to say, and sometimes they’ll say the wrong thing. Sometimes it might feel like they just want you to get through your grief faster than you are able to… and sometimes, their lives will leave them with less time for you.
You are not alone. While there is no clear map of where your journey will take you, and no defined timeline for how long you will need to begin to be able to accept and integrate the death of someone you’ve loved, one thing is certain. None of us gets through this life without losing someone we’ve loved. So even though each loss is different, and unique to each survivor and to each relationship, there are always others “out there” in varying stages of learning to live with having lost someone.
A bereavement group can offer something that family and friends can’t give: a place to go to be with others who truly understand how you’re feeling now — because they’re in the same place. Bereavement support groups are offered through synagogues, churches, hospitals and hospices. Jewish Community Services and Sol Levinson & Bros. have partnered to offer bereavement support groups within the Jewish community. Whatever supports you have in your life, there may come a time when you feel you need more help, more comfort, and the support of others who know how you feel. Grieving is hard work, but you don’t have to do this work alone.
If you feel that being in a group is not for you, please consider individual bereavement counseling as an additional level of support. Getting help of any kind is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and a sign that part of you wants and needs to go on with life.
By Helene Cooper, LCSW-C, Jewish Community Services Therapy Services
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles, visit www.jcsbaltimore.org or call 410-466-9200. Jewish Community Services is an agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.