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Second Sowing – A Poem about Grief by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

For whom
The milk ungiven in the breast
When the child is gone?
For whom the love locked up in the heart
That is left alone?
That golden yield
Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
Threshed out in pain upon September’s floor,
Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.
Break down the bolted door;
Rip open, spread and pour
The grain upon the barren ground
Wherever crack in clod is found.
There is no harvest for the heart alone;
The seed of love must be
Eternally
Resown.

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Option B Article: How to help parents who are grieving on Mother’s Day

Below is a nice article about helping grieving parents for mother’s day, posted on Option B.  The advice holds true for every holiday, birthday, death day, and all the time.  So many people get it wrong.  With a quote from yours truly.  OptionB is a great website .   So is this one: http://whatsyourgrief.com.

 

https://optionb.org/advice/how-to-help-parents-who-are-grieving-on-mothers-day

Expert Advice

How to help parents who are grieving on Mother’s Day

When someone loses a child, their world changes forever. Mother’s Day is just one of many days that make that loss feel even more profound. Bereaved parents may feel angry, cheated, heartbroken, or all of these at once—and they may worry they can’t be there fully for surviving children the way they want to be. Whether it’s the first or the fiftieth Mother’s Day after a child dies, part of a parent’s heart always belongs to their lost child. As Darcy Krause of the Center for Grieving Children puts it, “A child is a child no matter how old they are. In a mother’s or father’s heart, it’s their child.”

Parents who have living children in addition to the one who passed can find Mother’s Day bittersweet. One child doesn’t replace another or soften the blow of that loss. Sue Lloyd of Kara, an organization that provides grief support to families, tells us, “It’s like having a separate bank account for each child. Parents want to have pure joy and celebration for their living child but also need to set time aside to mourn the loss of the child who is gone.”

Miscarriage is another loss that can ache on Mother’s Day. In this case, even though parents and family didn’t get to know their child, they might grieve for the life that child won’t have. And if it was a loss early in pregnancy, friends and family might not even know that it happened. That can be isolating as well.

As a friend to a grieving parent, you can never take away that pain. But there are things you can do to help support bereaved parents—especially if they’re not looking forward to Mother’s Day. Experts suggest that you

Meet them where they are in their grief

Psychotherapist and grief specialist Fran Dorf cautions friends not to say or do things that could make a parent’s grief seem like it’s out of proportion or taking too long to resolve. Listen to your friend without judgment or advice. There is no right way to grieve. We need to let others work through their pain instead of trying to force them through it.

2

Let your friend know you’re thinking of them

You could say something like, “You’re on my mind today. I miss Michael, too.” If they have a living child, try, “This day must be filled with mixed feelings for you. I love seeing the relationship you have with Cora and remember your love for Jessie.” If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay. Just acknowledging that it can be a hard day can help your friend feel supported.

3

Say their child’s name

Often when someone dies, people stop saying their name around the grieving family. Experts agree that many families want to hear the child’s name out loud. Grief-support expert Shelly Gillan of Kara says that “it reminds them that their child is still loved and missed by many. A parent’s worst fear is that their child will be forgotten.”

4

Share memories or do something to honor the child—if your friend is ready

Darcy Krause advises that while some grieving parents won’t want to talk about their child, “others will leap at the chance. Follow social cues. If they change the topic, follow their lead.” Let your friend know that you’re available to talk or share stories of their child. If you want to give a thoughtful gift, write a card that they can read when they’re ready. Bake the child’s favorite cookies and leave them at the door with a note. Take a photo of something that reminds you of the child’s favorite color, movie, or holiday and send a text that lets your friend know you’re thinking of them.

5

Support surviving siblings

Darcy Krause reminds us that, even in families, grief can be lonely. Bereaved siblings can feel left out or experience survivor’s guilt that they’re still alive while their sibling isn’t. They sometimes feel pressure to take on the deceased sibling’s role in the family. Pay extra attention to siblings and help them feel nurtured and loved. Plan a special outing with them after Mother’s Day: a trip to the aquarium, an afternoon of arcade games—anything that makes them feel cherished.

6

Encourage self-care

Take your friend for a walk or drop by with a healthy meal. Offer to spend Mother’s Day together doing something relaxing like yoga or catching up on a favorite show.

7

Stay in the picture

Mother’s Day doesn’t necessarily become easier over time for a parent who lost a child. But friends and family can get caught up with their own lives and forget to check in as time passes. Commit to being there in the years to come on Mother’s Day, and to helping your friend keep their child’s memory alive.

Grief as it is

I found this one on Facebook.  I’m all for poems that tell tell the truth about grief, that tell grief as it is.  

 

I had my own notion of grief

I thought it was the sad time

That followed the death of

Someone you love.

And you had to push through it

To get to the other side.

But I’m learning there is no other side

There is no pushing through.

But rather,

There is absorption.

Adjustment.

Acceptance.

And grief is not something you complete,

But rather you endure.

Grief is not a task to finish.

And move on,

But an element of yourself-

An alteration of your being.

A new way of seeing.

A new definition of self.

Poem by a Griever

Here’s a poem written by a woman in one of my bereavement groups. (The Rodin is my addition) She wrote this poem shortly after her husband of many years died.  She says she takes it out every so often now and reads it again and just the act of reading it helps her.  It very nicely describes the process of grief, which has nothing to do with “closure,” but in which we struggle to move forward, holding close the memory, and trying to find meaning in the loss:

 

 

RESILIENCE

Life has led me to this moment

Life has led me to this place

I am alone

Like a solitary tree on a windswept hill.

 

I am buffeted by surges of grief, yearning, anxiety

As I bend with each assault my heart aches

My soul cries

But there is no solace, no relief

 

I have lost my anchor

I have lost my way

You  were my constant companion

You were my guide

 

Like a cloak

Your love enveloped me

Your love shielded me

From loneliness and isolation

 

Now, without you, I must decide

To either bend and break

Or struggle and gather strength

To stand strong and live, if only to remember you.

                                  Karen Habra

 

 

 

Ongoing Bereavement Groups

Child Loss Bereavement Support Group at the Center for Hope, Darien, CT

Statement by the facilitor – Fran Dorf, MA, LCSW

The death of a child is a loss like no other. Having lost my own child in 1994, I know that nothing has prepared you for the trauma of this death, nor the deluge of emotions that accompany it—extreme sadness, guilt, anger, shame, hopelessness, and so much more. I know that nothing can prepare you for the sometimes hurtful things well-meaning people say, nor the symptoms that can include anything from a sense of unreality, to an inability to function day to day, to hallucinations, to fatigue and other physical syptoms. As you move through the first months and years and try to find the way forward while still holding the memory and relationship with the child, it’s worthwhile to meet with others experiencing the same loss, under the compassionate, authentic, and knowledgable guidance of someone who has been there as well. I know it’s hard to get to the next moment, but consider joining my group.  It meets Thursdays at 6:00 PM at the Center for Hope, in Darien. Please call me at 203-536-3531 to discuss the group and/or register.

Senior Spousal Bereavement Group at the Center for Hope, Darien, CT

Statement by the facilitator – Fran Dorf, MA, LCSW

The loss of a longtime spouse or companion, especially over the the age of 60, can be uniquely devastating.  Although everyone has his or her own personality and set of experiences and has lost a unique person and relationship, the “senior” bereaved has to deal not only with the trauma of the death, but must also face each day with the “present absence” of the one person who may have been the most significant and longstanding relationship of one’s life.  The senior bereaved must face not only a sense of one’s own mortality, but everyday tasks such as cooking, bill-paying and even management of emotional challenges without a source of wisdom or history. As you move through the first months and years, trying to find the way to move forward, it may be helpful to meet with others experiencing the same loss, under the compassionate, authentic guidance of a facilitator who is both familiar with, and knowledgable about the process of of extreme grief. Consider joining my group, which is starting a new session very soon.  It meets Mondays at 10 AM at the Center for Hope, in Darien. Please call me at 203-536-3531 to discuss the group and/or register.

 

“Write to Heal” March 13th, 2-4 PM

Presented by Fran Dorf, writer and therapist

Sunday, March 13, 2 – 4pm, Dew Yoga, 123 High Ridge Road, Stamford, CT 

You do not have to be a “writer” to explore writing as a mindful and powerful way to heal.   To register, call 203-744-9642. Or online at www.dewyoga.net


Writing is a process by which the human soul can reveal, express, and heal itself…using words as tools.

Writing can be a medicine that helps us integrate our most frightening or difficult feelings and experiences, and even transform them. Research shows that writing has a beneficial effect on emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

In the Write-to-Heal Workshop, Fran creates an atmosphere of warmth and support, and all are welcome: practiced writers, novices, and those simply wanting to explore this way of healing. Fran meets each writer where he or she is, distinguishes between “process” (the healing part) and “outcome” (a whole other thing), and uses a combination of exercises and literary techniques she’s developed over many years to help people mine, discover, or even reclaim their deepest feelings and memories, and to give them voice, either directly or indirectly, using metaphor, image, and/or narrative.  You will be surprised at your own power.
Bring a notebook, a pen, and a small meaningful object. Space is limited to 10. Registration is required, $45/person. Sign up by phone or online today!



Dew Yoga: 123 High Ridge Rd. (3rd Floor) Stamford, CT (203)744-YOGA(9642) | http://www.dewyoga.net | info@dewyoga.net

My social work interview

This interview, along with interviews of some other social workers who are also writers, can also be found at this link: http://www.socialworkguide.org/advice/fran-dorf/

An Interview with Fran Dorf

 

Fran Dorf is a professional writer and a psychotherapist (MA, LCSW) and a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). As a therapist, she offers private, confidential counseling to those struggling with depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and trauma. Dorf has particular expertise with grief and loss and with those struggling with creative efforts. As a creative coach, she helps people come to grips with the fact that to do creative work “you must have the hide of an elephant and the soul of a child….”As a professional writer, Dorf is most notably the author of three acclaimed, internationally published novels: A Reasonable Madness(Birch Lane/Signet); Flight (Dutton/Signet) and Saving Elijah (Putnam). Her articles, essays, and poetry have appeared in anthologies, literary magazines, and online periodicals such as McSweeney’s, Forbes, Brainchild, Bottom Line, and Ars Medica. Dorf’s’ full-length play, “The Angel of Forgetting,” a family drama with a psychological (and supernatural) mystery at its core, had an enthusiastic reception at the Lark Theatre in NYC in April 2015, and another drama, “There You Are,” received rave reviews in its debut in July 2015 at the St. Louis Actors’ Studio Neil LaBute New Theater Festival.

Fran Dorf displays her dual interests with her psychotherapy website and blog and her professional writing website. Dorf speaks to groups on “Coping with Loss,” “Creating Happiness,” and “Write to Heal” workshops, from one hour to one day, to help people use expressive writing as a path to inner healing and to cope with their struggles, losses, illness, grief, and trauma.

We would like to thank Fran Dorf for taking the time to speak with us about her rich career.

1. Why did you choose the field of social work rather than psychology, counseling or another helping profession? What circumstances or influences led you to pursue a career as a social worker?

My pursuit of this field has been a lifelong effort, a back and forth between my two main interests in life, psychology and writing, and a real case of something I’d have to call “life intervenes.” I got a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1975, then got a master’s in psychology in 1985, thinking I would go on to get a PhD in psychology, and eventually have a private practice. The master’s degree sparked an idea for a novel about a psychiatrist and his patient, so instead of going on in school I returned to something I’d done in my teens, creative writing. I used a lot of what I’d learned in the study of psychology in graduate school.

In 1990/1991 my first novel, A Reasonable Madness (Birch Lane hardcover/Signet paperback), was published and sold very well, in America and internationally. Writing became my career. In 1993, my second novel, Flight (Dutton/Signet) was published, and I had a two -book contract with the publisher. Then my three-year-old son, Michael, became ill and died seven months later. It took me a long time just to get out of bed (metaphorically speaking), let alone think about going back to a career. When I did go back to writing, I eventually wrote a novel inspired by my loss, Saving Elijah, published in 2000 by Putnam. Honestly, the process of loss and the catharsis of writing that novel saved my life, and I developed an abiding interest and expertise in the writing process as a way to deal with trauma. I decided to go back to social work school in 1999, basically because I saw myself as too old to get a PhD, especially since I was planning to continue to write. After the book came out, there were more distractions, film options and so on. I abandoned the MSW, and then didn’t return to it until 2007. They accepted all my credits from 1999. Ah, but then I got breast cancer, so had to delay the second year of the MSW again.

2. How has your career grown and developed over time?

By the time I finally got my MSW in 2008, I was already 53 years old. (I was not the only “elderly” student in the class.) I worked at an outpatient clinic for four years to get the hours to get my LCSW, which I got in 2013.
Since I always knew that I was interested in doing clinical work with clients (rather than running a program or something like that), all my internships and my work following my degree were in clinics. This experience was very valuable, in that I got to work with a variety of people from different walks of life, and on a variety of issues.

I now have a small private practice and three groups, two with bereaved parents, and one for senior spousal bereavement. I also facilitate writing-for-healing workshops for bereaved, addicted, homeless, and other populations. I take an eclectic approach to working with people, using standard techniques such mindfulness, DBT, CBT, narrative therapy, IMAGO, but given my age and level of experience before I formally took this on, I rely heavily on my instincts, and sometimes, if clients are interested, I employ creative techniques such as writing exercises I’ve developed over time, techniques I’ve used myself in my creative life. I get a lot of creative people in my practice, writers, artists, and so on.

3. What do you see as the top social issues facing social workers today?

Lack of funding for social programs, low pay so that it’s difficult to keep good clinicians in a clinic. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of, and focus on, paperwork, when I worked in a clinic.

4. What advice would you give to new social workers entering the field?

Be in it to help people. Have and keep both moral and ethical standards. Use what works. Examine your own prejudices. Know your own psychology.

5. What are two or three top recommendations that can help social work graduates keep their skills current and continue learning after graduation?

If you’re working in a social service organization, you do have to be sufficiently respectful and know when to back down, but only the other hand, if you find fault with a certain policy, or especially if you feel the policy is harmful to your client(s), stand up for what you believe in.

Here’s an example of one way this played out in my situation: A few years into my work in a very large social work agency, where I was working as a contract worker with individuals and groups, I realized that they were only counting the actual hours spent face to face with clients toward my accumulating hours. Not only were they not paying me for hours and hours of work each day, spent doing paperwork, making phone calls, etc., they weren’t counting any of these hours toward getting my license.

What is permissible in terms of counting toward licensure varies from state to state, but I called the NASW office in my state and was told that ALL social work hours could be counted according to law in my state, including paperwork, phone calls, reports, case conference, etc.

I got a letter from the president of the NASW chapter detailing what was permissible, and I pointed out to my supervisor how valuable a worker I was, and that the agency was interpreting the law in the most restrictive way that was hurtful to the worker rather than being helpful. They were shocked that anyone had brought this up. Not only were they under the impression that the law said they were only allowed to count the face to face hours, they had done it this way for years.

It was difficult, but I stuck to my guns and pointed out that it would have taken me ten years to accumulate enough hours. Given my age, I didn’t have time to do that. In the end they did change their rules, and I got the hours in four years rather than ten.

There are a variety of interesting certificate programs you can get into that will help you hone your techniques and also help you get referrals, if you’re looking to do clinical work.

6. What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise new graduates to mine their own strengths to further their careers?

My experience and creativity. I would advise new graduates to be open to living life fully, and learning good lessons about life from whatever comes their way.
Research in positive psychology shows that a mindset like this can contribute to happiness, anyway.

7. What can social worker students do to improve their competitive edge in the current job market?

Be professional yet approachable, courteous but strong. Seek out a wide variety of experiences and reading, personal and professional, which will contribute to your value as a worker and a person.

8. Social work can be rewarding but challenging as well. What self-care strategies do you recommend for new social workers?

I meditate five times a week at least. Get into some sort of psychotherapy yourself, so that you have knowledge of how your own issues can intrude, and how your clients’ issues can intrude upon you. Also, have a balance in your life: I have a family, friends, and hobbies, plus a half-time practice of psychotherapy, and a half-time practice of writing. Try to find something outside of your work that moves you and involves you in a collaborative effort.

9. Can you give an example of an interesting project or case that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

I feel particularly good when I am working with clients and I see progress that is going to help them move forward more successfully in their lives.

10. Is there any further advice you would share with students concerning social work as a career?

Get a good supervisor. The supervisor relationship is very important for people just starting out.