Arlene and Albert, her husband of nearly 60 years, had built a hardware business together in New Jersey, passed it on to their sons, and made an active life in Delray Beach far from their children and grandchildren. Always considered particularly level-headed, capable and quick to adapt, Arlene was completely unprepared for the impact of her husband’s death after a few years of heart failure.
After shiva, when the family left, she found herself in a fog of grief, unable to go about her daily activities, to muster the energy to read, cook, shop, exercise or visit the dentist. A friend suggested she check out the bereavement support group right at her synagogue. The group quickly became instrumental to Arlene’s journey through grief for nearly two years.
“At first my grief was so overwhelming, it was like a dream,” Arlene said. “Albert was not only my husband, he was my best friend. I had moved right from my parents’ home to my first apartment with Albert, so I had never lived alone. I’m usually a very social person but even when I felt up to going out, I found myself excluded from the couples activities we’d enjoyed for so long. Friends got tired of listening to me and told me to ‘snap out of it.”
At the weekly group, led by a highly experienced social worker from Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, Arlene found people who understood and validated her situation and her feelings. She learned ways to cope with her grief, like making plans for holidays and birthdays she knew would be particularly difficult. She gained the confidence to make new friends, go places on her own, manage her finances and consider alternate living options as she entered her mid-eighties with no family nearby. And she has been glad to refer bereaved friends and acquaintances to the group.
“With the help of my group, I began to see there was “light at the end of the tunnel,’” said Arlene. “Yes, there are times when I still cry, I get angry, I get scared, but I know these familiar feelings will continue to diminish and I feel competent to withstand them, live my new life as a single person and make plans for my future while treasuring the wonderful memories of my husband.”
For more information on the IMPACT of Federation giving, visit jewishboca.org/impact.