- Spiritual Services
- Grief & Bereavement
A woman in California, whose mother died from COVID-19 in New York, is struggling with the pain of never getting to say goodbye. A man in his 80’s, whose wife is alone in the ICU, now must quarantine from the rest of his family. An emergency room doctor, who has young children at home, is torn every day between caring for her patients and putting her family at risk.
These are just three of the many calls that JFCS has answered since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of people have lost a loved one, and those who haven’t are experiencing other versions of loss—lost jobs, routines, social support, or expectations of a future that they planned on.
Rabbi Daniel Isaacson, Director of JFCS’ Spiritual Care Services, says that in his work providing grief counseling, chaplaincy, and spiritual guidance, he has seen the pandemic bring more profound feelings of loss than ever before.
“Grief is by its very nature an isolating experience,” he says. “The added loneliness due to Covid is compounding feelings of depression and anxiety, and for many people is leading to a real sense of despair.”
For Martha—the woman who lost her mother to Covid across the country—sitting shiva alone was especially painful. Instead of holding her mother’s hand, Martha was left wondering what happened in those final moments. “I think there will always be a small piece of me missing because of that,” she says.
Wrestling with feelings of guilt and needing closure, Martha called JFCS in search of someone to talk to.
For 170 years, JFCS’ guiding principle has been to make sure that no one is alone in moments of need. Throughout this pandemic, JFCS has been providing grief counseling, teletherapy, and support groups for those who are mourning; chaplaincy, rabbinic services, and palliative care for the gravely ill; training and guidance for physicians at Stanford Medicine; support for those experiencing miscarriage or infant loss; and comprehensive support for anyone who is struggling with loss.
“The antidote to despair is feeling truly seen by another person. When we feel that we are not alone, we begin feel that our life is meaningful and has possibility again,” Rabbi Isaacson says.
In other words, our resilience as a community depends on our ability to make sure that no one is left on their own during times of pain or mourning. This year, we have all endured change and loss; when we acknowledge this loss in ourselves and in one another, and nurture our community so that each member is surrounded by it, we can begin to heal.
Through an online JFCS bereavement support group, Martha has found comfort in talking to others who have lost a loved one during the pandemic. She also decided to begin one-on-one grief counseling, and has begun to move through her feelings of remorse and regret in a positive way. “We talk about my mother and what I would have said to her at the end of her life,” Martha says. “Just having someone to listen, to help me honor my mother in this way, has been something good to hold on to during the darkest time.”
JFCS’ next Online Bereavement Support Group will begin in January 2020. To learn more about this group or if you need support coping with illness, grief, or loss, please call JFCS today at 415-449-3700.
You can help us ensure that no one has to grieve alone. Donate to JFCS’ Grief and Healing Services today >