The Koby Mandell Foundation in collaboration with the Israel Center for the Prevention of Psychotrauma has created a new initiative: spiritual healing groups for bereaved parents and widows. Bereaved parents and widows, even 5 years later, still suffer from the trauma of loss, and their families suffer as well.
Psychological treatment has been the recommended course of healing from loss for the past half century. But studies show that psychologists are unable in the majority of cases to ease the effects of traumatic loss.
Psychology is not always enough to address the issues that a couple or widow faces. Loss is also a spiritual issue, and so groups are being run that are facilitated by spiritual leaders as well as therapists from the Israel Center for the Prevention of Psychotrauma..
So far the two women spiritual leaders have also been bereaved themselves, a mother and a widow leading their respective groups. In this way, the group feels safe because the spiritual leader and the psychologist offer a haven of understanding.
The group is not a religious group but is open to everybody, religious and non-religious. Jewish texts including Rebbe Nachman and Kaballah are used as springboards for discussion. Breathing and meditation and song are also incorporated. The issues that are addressed include Why me? and Where is God? and How do we go on as a couple? What is the difference between destiny and fate? There is also quite a bit of discussion of the role of the community in supporting the bereaved family or hurting them.
The New York Federation has provided funding for the groups which also include an evaluation component. Participants are tested pre and post group to assess if there is relief of symptoms of bereavement.
One of the psychologists reported that: "Now that I am working in spiritual counseling I see that working without spirituality is like working with the body without the soul."
Participants have been very pleased with the groups. They say that the combination of spirituality and psychology allows them to explore issues that need to be addressed. They feel supported and nurtured by the group experience.
In the past year, the foundation has run 2 groups, one that met 20 times, and one that met for 12 meetings. A third group is beginning after Passover in the Haifa area.
In the spring, the foundation is presenting a paper on the unique therapeutic powers of these groups.