The Empty Place at the Table: Coping with Loss During the Holidays

March 25, 2015

Wednesday
7:00pm
Temple Isaiah
12220 Scaggsville Road, Fulton, MD

Presented by Sol Levinson & Brothers and Jewish Community Services:

Family gatherings can be painful for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. Join us for help in finding support and comfort during the holidays.

Facilitated by Rabbi Craig H. Axler and Donna Kane, M.A., JCS Clinician. Pre-registration preferred via web or by calling 410-466-9200

 

Empty Space at the Table

Funeral Personalization

HoldingHandsFuneral personalization can mean a lot of different things, but the primary goal of personalization is that the funeral more fully reflect the life of the person being honored. Whether you are looking for traditional or non-traditional funeral arrangements, there are many ways to honor special wishes. Read here for a list of several ways in which a funeral or shiva home can incorporate options such as music, photographs, etcetera.

 Levinson’s is here to answer your questions about these and other options, and to make everything run smoothly. Make sure your funeral director knows in advance if you would like to include any of these elements, so we can be completely prepared upon your arrival for the service. If you have special requests for your own funeral, you may sit down with us to plan ahead and ensure we have the information in our records. It is also very important to ensure your family is aware of and comfortable with your wishes.

 Also, not all of these things are strictly in keeping with traditional Jewish funerals. Be sure your clergy is aware of any personalized aspects of your funeral so they may tailor their remarks appropriately to honor your loved one in the way you wish them to be remembered.

One thing many of our families find meaningful is to place photographs, notes and drawings (especially by younger family members) into the casket. Funerals sometimes feature special readings, or favorite music playing while other family and friends arrive prior to the service. Levinson’s also provides the option of a video recording of the service via discrete and unobtrusive cameras in the ceilings of the chapels. Family and friends who are out of town or otherwise physically unable to attend may then feel they are a part of the service even if they cannot attend. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let us know. If you have your own suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Yizkor – Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

yizkorThe Yizkor service is a special service recited four times a year in synagogues, to honor the memory of the departed. It is recited on Yom Kippur, on Shemini Atzeret (at the end of Sukkot), the final day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot (or the first day for those who only observe one day). The Yizkor service is not only an opportunity to remember loved ones, it is also an opportunity to recommit oneself to doing mitzvahs – acts of charity – in a loved one’s memory. By doing a good deed in someone’s memory, it carries on their legacy in this world.

Some synagogues have the tradition of everyone reciting Yizkor, with those who have not lost an immediate mourner reciting Yizkor for victims of the Holocaust or for other martyrs. In other synagogues, it is customary for only those who have lost an immediate family member to recite Yizkor.

A yahrzeit candle is traditionally lit the evening before the service. Please see our website for a full calendar of Yizkor dates (based on 8-day observance).

 

Any information about ritual practice is intended as a general overview for the broader Jewish community and there are many differences of opinion within this community. Concerns about specific ritual practices should be directed to your rabbi. Opinions expressed in blog posts and in external links may not represent the opinions of the staff or ownership of Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc.

 

The Empty Place at the Table: Coping with Loss During the Holidays

Family gatherings can be painful for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. Empty Seat at the TableSol Levinson & Bros and Jewish Community Services invite you to join us for help in finding support and comfort during the holidays.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 | 7:00pm
Oakland Mills Interfaith Center
5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, Maryland

Facilitated by Rabbi Amy R. Scheinerman and Donna Kane, M.A., JCS Clinician

Pre-registration is preferred. Please visit jcsbaltimore.org/griefsupport or call 410-466-9200.

2014 Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. and Jewish Community Services
welcome the entire community to:

The 16th Annual Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, May 21, from 6-9:15pm. We are pleased to announce the following presenters and topics:

Glenn J. Treisman M.D., Ph.D. – “Depression and Demoralization in Patients with Chronic Illness”
Doreen Horan, LCPC, FAMI – “Creative Grief Counseling for Children and Adults: The Wisdom of Integrating Therapy, Intuition, and Life Skills to Live Freely, Fully, Joyfully”

Dr. Treisman is the Director of the AIDS Psychiatry Service, Co-Director of the Chronic Pain Treatment Program, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Ms. Horan is the Manager of the Counseling Center at Stella Maris, Inc., a hospice provider in Timonium, MD.

2014Postcard

The lecture will be held here at Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, MD. Limited seating. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. No prior registration or reservations. 3 Category A or I CEUs available for psychologists and social workers. The lecture is provided in conjunction with Jewish Community Services, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

How Can Hospice Help?

The guiding principle of hospice is to ensure that a person’s death is as dignified and comfortable as possible, to maintain a patient’s quality of life and avoid unnecessary suffering. The role of hospice is to provide medical care and emotional support for the terminally ill. Hospice caregivers also provide valuable support to patients’ families. Some hospice organizations also provide palliative care for non-hospice patients. Palliative care is relieving symptoms or suffering, without attempting to cure an illness or disease.

Hospice organizations provide medical care via doctors and nurses who help advise and administer medications to ease suffering. They also help patients’ families make arrangements to acquire necessary medical equipment. Social workers are also available to help families and patients with the emotional process. Hospice providers also offer grief counseling, and some offer spiritual guidance. As with Levinson’s Aftercare Resources, hospice organizations are known for their continued support of families after the patient’s death. Some hospice organizations in the Baltimore-area are religious, some are not. Some are for-profit, some are not. All are committed to easing the process of death and dying for the terminally ill and their families.

Hospice services are available in one’s own home, in some hospitals, as well as at dedicated hospice facilities. It is important to know that hospice organizations will evaluate patients several times over the course of someone’s illness to determine their eligibility for hospice care and help advise the family, even before they are actually providing hospice services.

Within the Jewish community, there are some important resources, such as Jewish Community Services’ resources for Aging and Caregiving. Their assistance with Elder Care Management begins with helping families make decisions as their loved ones age, and they can also provide information about important end-of-life resources such as hospice care.

Other resources can be found through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, as well as local hospice care providers such as Gilchrist Hospice, Seasons Hospice, and Stella Maris.

Caring for Yourself When Grieving

HoldingHandsGrief can be an all-encompassing emotion, and Jewish funerals often take place within a relatively short time after a death occurs, meaning the first few days after a loss can go by in a blur. Add to that the possible additional stresses of travel, family interactions, and sometimes a significant amount of time recently spent supporting someone with a lingering illness, and it is no wonder that mourners sometimes suffer serious illness themselves.

Jewish law requires us to take care of ourselves, even at difficult times, and we have put together some reminders that we hope will keep you and your loved ones healthy and safe. If you are helping a friend or extended family during the time of a funeral, please make sure they do the following:

  • Drink water. Dehydration from crying, or simply not drinking on a normal schedule, can lead to a host of physical ailments even for people who are otherwise healthy. For people with blood pressure, heart or other health problems it can be dangerous.
  • Remember to eat. If you feel you have little appetite, have small meals or healthy snacks. And don’t over-do it with the caffeine. Grieving, planning and attending a funeral, and sitting shiva can be surprisingly physically taxing. From avoiding headaches to ensuring blood sugar stays level, keeping your body fueled is imperative to staying well.
  • Try to rest. Emotions can make it hard to sleep and sometimes, after a death, adrenaline kicks in. But the chemicals your body releases when sleep-deprived take a toll. Find ways to pause for a few moments of quiet or down-time. Delegate shiva set-up to someone else. Feel free to define times when you are receiving people, and times which are set aside for quiet family time to eat meals, or take naps. If you have people in your home for shiva and it starts to get overwhelming, you are completely within your rights to excuse yourself for a little while. Nobody will judge you. You are not hosting, you are sitting shiva.

Remember mourning is a process which takes a different amount of time for each person. As you grieve, please keep in mind we have several resources at Levinson’s to help you along the way. From books to lectures to bereavement groups, our Aftercare resources are always available to you.

 

2013 Bereavement Lecture in Howard County

On Sunday, October 20, 2013, Levinson’s hosted our annual bereavement lecture in Howard County. With about 100 people in attendance from the Columbia, Rockville, Bethesda and Washington, DC areas, this lecture allows us to provide outreach and aftercare services to the families we serve in those neighborhoods. The lecture is also a way of providing ongoing training to the social workers and caregivers who live in these communities.

Presenter J. Shep Jeffreys spoke about “Helping Grieving People: When Tears Are Not Enough”. J. Shep Jeffreys, Ed.D., F.T. is a licensed psychologist with a specialty in the treatment of grief related problems. He is a Fellow in Thanatology (ADEC). In addition to his practice at the Family Center in Columbia, he is an Assistant Professor in Psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he presents seminars on loss and grief to psychiatric residents. He is Affiliate Assistant Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Maryland, teaching Loss and Bereavement.

Dr. Jeffreys is author of Helping Grieving People: When Tears Are Not Enough: A Handbook for Care Providers, 2nd Edition, and of Coping with Workplace Grief: Dealing with Loss, Trauma and Change, Revised Edition. His column “Grief Psychologist’s Corner” has been a regular feature in Living With Loss magazine. A speaker and storyteller, he consults with and provides training programs for religious, medical, and educational institutions as well as business organizations. For twelve years he worked with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., as a trainer and grief/loss workshop leader in the United States and abroad, and he has served as consulting psychologist for The Johns Hopkins AIDS Service. Dr. Jeffreys is a member of and consultant to Bereaved Parents USA, Howard County (MD) Chapter.

Feedback after the lecture was that Dr. Jeffreys was very informative, a great speaker and people really got a lot out of the morning. All in all, it was an experience that was very helpful to the attendees.

If you are interested in the lectures either at the Sol Levinson & Bros. funeral home (usually every Spring), please check in with us in February. If you would like to know more about upcoming Howard County lectures, please check in with us next summer.

You can always contact us with any questions.

 

This event was co-sponsored by Jewish Community Services (An agency of THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore) and The Jewish Federation of Howard County.

Let’s Talk About Death?

Have you ever talked to your friends or family about death? Do you know what your loved ones’ wishes are for long-term care? Have you told them what your wishes are? What does it mean to decide to send a family member to a nursing home, hospice facility or receive hospice care at home? Is your family prepared in case someone dies suddenly? What are your wishes regarding a funeral, and does your family know what they are?

The separation many of us have from death or those who are dying – due to extended life expectancy and the rise of long-term care facilities – means that this subject is rarely discussed and has almost become taboo. This does a disservice to those who are dying and those who are struggling to cope with the loss or imminent loss of a loved one. Several interesting communities and resources have recently stepped in to fill that gap.

Now you can gather a group of friends or family to discuss “Death Over Dinner“, sending out a resource for people to read in advance and then gathering to talk about your reactions or thoughts. They point out on their homepage that “How we want to die – represents the most important and costly conversation America isn’t having.” Bloomberg recently highlighted these dinners in an article which looks into some participants’ experiences. Or you can attend a “Death Cafe” which gathers people together over cake and coffee (or tea) to share their thoughts and fears about death. Back in March, NPR interviewed the man who started them, and you can read that interview here.

If you have any questions about Jewish funerals or the mourning process, funeral options available, or would like information about resources in the community, please do not hesitate to let us know.

How long do we sit shiva? Is one day okay? Three?

We’re going to start this answer out by saying we strongly recommend you talk to a rabbi about this issue.

Shiva technically means “seven” and by definition lasts for seven Jewish calendar days starting immediately after the interment (burial). There are many important reasons for this first period of official mourning, but due to various considerations such as family needing to return to their homes in other cities or changes in religious observance, many families sit shiva for fewer than seven days. The length of this observance is now often determined by each family based on their needs.

You can find more extensive details about this and other Jewish funeral practices on our Jewish Resources page. We also have a helpful page on how to set up a shiva house.