401.331.1244 info@jcsri.org

There are people whose scintillating memory lights the world after they have passed from it. (Hannah Senesh)

Those words, part of a poem by World War II heroine Hannah Senesh, are especially timely for the greater Rhode Island Jewish community: The deaths of two former leaders of Jewish Family Service (which merged with Jewish Seniors Agency in 2019 to form Jewish Collaborative Services), Robert Berkelhammer (board president from 1988-91) and Norman Orodenker, board president from 1979-81). May their memories be a blessing.

Counseling people who are experiencing grief, whether due to the death of a beloved family member, friend or pet; family estrangement; or other changed life circumstances are some of the support services offered By Jewish Collaborative Services.  Discovering the gift of sacred silence; listening with the heart, not the head; and bearing witness to a person’s pain: These are among the “companioning model” counseling tools that Jeremy Thayer, LICSW, clinical supervisor at Jewish Collaborative Services’ Counseling Center uses when working with those who have experienced loss.

“Each of the Counseling Center’s social workers has a different way of thinking about grief… I introduced the companioning model, which allows me to focus on a grief-stricken individual’s spirit, not their intellect; and bearing witness to their pain, rather than trying to take away their pain,” Thayer explains. “Grief is always in our wheelhouse; we regularly see people dealing with grief and are skilled in helping people with grief, loss, depression, and anxiety.”

Through the companioning model, Thayer will:

  • Listen to grieving clients;
  • Help them recognize the typically wide range of reactions to grief, including frustration, confusion, anger, sadness, anxiety, and helplessness;
  • Help them draw on their own strengths and develop healthy coping skills;
  • Help them grieve their losses in their own unique way; and
  • Refer them, as necessary, to other resources, such as grief support groups.

Someone experiencing grief may feel shock, disbelief, denial, anger, anxiety, helplessness, numbness, and sadness, says Thayer. “While there is no right or wrong way to grieve or no appropriate grief timeline, it is troubling when grief gets in the way or normal routines, such as paying bills, parenting, going to work, attending to personal hygiene. Someone can grieve for two years but still be a parent, a partner, and still go to work.”

In helping clients through their individual grief journeys, the Counseling Center’s highly trained social workers use a variety of grief counseling methods, including these:

  • Thayer’s preferred approach of a companioning model;
  • The “dual process model” focusses on a client’s loss-oriented activities, including crying, longing, and experiencing sadness, denial or anger; and restoration-oriented activities, including adapting to a new role, managing changes in routines, and developing new ways of connecting with family and friends;
  • The Kübler-Ross model helps a grieving client work through what the model considers the five most common stages of grief, popularly referred to as DABDA: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

JCS accepts most health insurance policies, says Thayer. “Health insurance companies tend not to limit out-patient treatments, so clients have more or less unlimited access to outpatient treatments … seeing a therapist weekly for months at a time is often typical.”

In addition to the Counseling Center’s social workers, JCS’ Case Management Services and Kesher are no cost-services that support and aid individuals dealing with feelings of grief, anxiety, loss, etc. free of charge.  Whether you are experiencing anxiety over COVID-19 or grief over the loss of a loved one, JCS stands ready to assist you through these difficult times.

If you need assistance, please call JCS at 401-331-1244

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