The death of a child is an unimaginably heart-wrenching tragedy that can impact the daily lives of those who have endured it. While the age of a child has little bearing on the breadth of one’s grief, it is OHEL’s observation that the loss of an adult child has been insufficiently acknowledged or addressed. It is with this in mind that OHEL’s trauma and bereavement program has initiated support programs and services for parents who have lost adult children — whether through illness, suicide, drug overdose, or natural causes.
Many of the couples had attended OHEL’s first-of-its kind Weekend Retreat for Bereaved Parents, which was held at the beautiful grounds of Camp Kaylie at OHEL in upstate New York in May. OHEL’s most recent event, “Grieving Alone, Grieving Together,” attended by over 30 parents, was hosted at the OHEL Jaffa Family Campus last Monday.
The two guest speakers for the evening were Dr. Norman Blumenthal, director, OHEL Miriam Center for Trauma, Bereavement, and Crisis Response, and Rabbi Mordechai Dov Fine, rav of Congregation Machzikeh Hadas, Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Rabbi Mordechai Dov Fine spoke powerfully about the importance of emunah in times of hardship, and his message resonated with many of the parents, while Dr. Norman Blumenthal validated the grief and sense of loss that can coexist with it.
While no parent may fully recover from the loss of one’s child, providing psychoeducation and support can help parents move forward, taking the love and memories of their child with them. These OHEL retreats and group events provide a unique and irreplaceably safe, warm, and welcoming environment, where parents become more comfortable in sharing their stories, and build lifelong friendships of support among their peers who understand.
Those couples new to the group were warmly and sensitively welcomed. Each parent looking to support and encourage each other spoke of one another’s losses, and shared one another’s pain.
One couple commemorated the fourth yahrzeit of their daughter, and spoke beautifully about their daughter and what has helped them cope with their loss. Several other parents were in the planning stages for a first yahrzeit and so this touching story provided much support to these parents.
The gratitude and transformative value expressed by all the participants for both the retreat and this latest event was overwhelming. Couples expressed how “the retreat has gotten them through the last few months,” some saying they “keep quoting all the things learned at the retreat,” and “this program was just what [they] needed.” Others added, “Thank you to OHEL for doing this for us.”
David Mandel, CEO of OHEL, who was also in attendance, commented, “The turnout of both events speaks to the inherent need of support services for such parents, which OHEL feels privileged to provide.”
OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services offers services that meet the everyday needs of individuals and families. To access more information or services, please call 800-603-OHEL, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit OhelFamily.org.