The Center celebrates 30 years of service!
The Center for Grief Recovery is happy to celebrate its 30th anniversary, which has given us all pause to consider the years that have led up to this moment and the journey that lies ahead. The Center is thriving as a business, as an active part of our community, and as a haven for those who are struggling with loss and in need of healing. We are excited about what’s to come! Still, our 30th anniversary is a bittersweet occasion as we reflect upon our humble beginnings and the challenges we’ve traversed along the way. We mourn what we’ve lost and we marvel at what we’ve gained.
A short history of The Center’s origin begins with our co-founder, Jerry Rothman, whose brother died in an accident when Jerry was only eight years old. Many years later, in 1985, this tragedy served as an impetus for the establishment of The Rothman-Cole Center for Sibling Loss, ultimately transforming loss and pain into purpose and growth. The Center, originally housed within Jerry’s private Chicago residence, broadened its scope and began working with all experiences of loss, renaming itself The Center for Grief Recovery. The cozy confines of Jerry’s home proved to be too small for The Center’s expanding work, and The Center relocated in 1995, setting up shop at our current location in the Roger’s Park neighborhood of Chicago. Enthusiasm was high. Unexpectedly, Jerry Rothman died soon after this transition in 2002. Our current director and Jerry’s successor, David Fireman, still speaks with inspiration and poignancy about the loss of his dear friend and the legacy his mentor left behind. David enjoys our current location and the opportunities it continues to provide us as we grow in our efforts to serve our community, but he also shares many fond memories of what he misses: Jerry’s first office, his knickknacks, and the red shag carpeting that adorned the waiting room.
Loss, adaptation to change, and recovery is a complicated process. Our grieving clients often come to us asking difficult questions about what to expect, such as “How will I know if I’m doing well?” and “What does recovery look like?” I am struck by how the ups and downs of The Center’s evolution not only provide a potential answer to these questions, but also mirror the very grieving process we aim to facilitate for our clients. Tragedy fuels opportunity. Positive emotional experiences such as inspiration and enthusiasm find expression amidst painful feelings of sadness. Nostalgia and reminiscence for what has preceded exists alongside hope for the future. Old relationships give us fond memories of a familiar past while new relationships guide and accompany us through the uncertainties of the future. I often respond to my clients’ questions with something along the lines of “When you can resume growing and developing new relationships without forgetting the importance of what you’ve lost.”
I have only been involved with The Center for Grief Recovery for the past four years, but I am proud of our ongoing growth and development in that span of time. We have organized fundraisers that help us provide services to traditionally underserved populations in need of grief counseling. The Healing Our Losses Together group therapy program, one of the earliest hallmarks of Jerry’s vision, has been reawakened, adding to the list of services we provide. Our director has spearheaded a variety of improvements to our website. A dear colleague of ours decided to move on to other ventures, but we have had the pleasure to welcome our newest colleague, Meg Kelleher, into the fold. The Center has also reached out to a variety of professionals who work with grief by offering workshops, delivering webinars across the country, and presenting at conferences. Our excitement builds exponentially as we continue to grow and build new relationships. At the same time, we miss Jerry, my colleagues smile when thinking about the simplicities of our first location, and we will never forget how our tragedies and triumphs have shaped who we are.
We invite you,
while in wild flight,
to light and quiet
the rending talon,
to take your meat
from our hand,
the trail of souls
accept the jesses,
not for good,
but for now
your beating wings
30th Anniversary Essay
Grief therapists understand the significance of anniversaries. An anniversary can be a celebration of endurance and growth, or an acknowledgment of losses along the way -- but in its ultimate form an anniversary incorporates both of these elements. As the newest psychotherapist at the Center for Grief Recovery and the current Healing Our Losses group facilitator, I am in a unique position to see the significance of the Center’s 30th anniversary of service to the community and my own place in this history.
So often I see our new Healing Our Losses members walk in for the first night of a group cycle, settling into the cozy couch cushions rather warily. Someone says, “This is my first time in a support group. I’ve never lost a loved one before. I don’t know how to do this.” Other group members nod in agreement. A group for grieving people: It’s sort of like a club no one looks forward to being a part of. It’s not an exclusive club, exactly -- after all, merely being born into the human race practically guarantees that you’ll eventually meet the admittance criteria, should you live long enough and love hard enough. And yet outside of the four walls of our Center, this “club’s” members tend to acknowledge their membership quietly, if at all, with a note of reluctance at speaking it aloud to the larger world. American culture pathologizes grieving, and those who grieve quickly get the message that their grief is something they are expected to hold close to their chests.
And yet, in spite of -- or perhaps because of -- this widespread pathologizing of grief, bereaved people find their way to our Center, to a place where their full expression of grief is considered not just normal but also healthy, where they can sit alongside others who are grieving and both offer comfort and receive it in turn. On that first night of group, members frequently confide that their greatest fear is that the pain of their own loss will prove to be immune to healing. Over time they learn the truth that each loss is unique and in its own way incomparable. Yet this truth can also beget a fear: If the relationship I had with my deceased loved one is so one-of-a-kind, then how can I take comfort in the words of others who tell me from experience that, with hard emotional work and acceptance and patience, healing is possible for me, too? And yet they come to know that over days and weeks and months and years, change comes, even for those of us once in too much pain to dream of that possibility.
For almost as long as the Center has been open, we have offered grief groups. For thirty years, brave everyday people have continued to walk through our doors, gathering to encounter both together and alone the greatest challenge we can face: being fully human, broken hearts and all. As I sit here in my sun-lit office today, I know I am privileged to be the latest in a long and esteemed line of group facilitators here, privileged to bear witness alongside grieving people as they make sense of their losses. I also know that, one day when I am gone, someone else will carry on our tradition with our future group members in future group cycles, and I cannot help but feel joy and hope as I think of all of the anniversaries still before us at the Center.
Meg Kelleher 2/2015
Letter to Our Readers about a New and Exciting Website Resource Project
In an effort to better serve clients, colleagues, and the general public, the Center for Grief Recovery (the Center) is providing this free website-based bibliographic resource to broaden and deepen your knowledge and access to grief recovery related materials. Our aim is to support, encourage, offer hope and guidance to anyone, free of charge, wrestling with the meaning of their lives and the lives of loved ones in the wake of loss.
Materials included have been identified based on years of experience and use, and range from the imminently practical, personal and immediately accessible, to the profound, theoretical and historically sound. Most clinicians at the Center feel kinship with psychoanalytic and existential schools of thought and the bibliography for professionals reflects those preferences. However, the reader will find many books and resources that speak directly to the mourner in plain and direct language as well.
If you are a clinician seeking guidance with a case, or a deeper appreciation of the thanatological and bereavement fields, then you will find an entire list of required reading derived from a doctoral level grief studies seminar.
If you are currently grieving or anticipating grief we have collected some of the most respected books and online resources for you to explore on your own. Many of the resources fall under a general topic and others are segmented into specific topics to help you find what you are looking for as quickly as possible.
We are always looking for ways to make your experience using our website as simple and useful as possible. To that end, we welcome your feedback regarding this resource.
David Fireman, LCSW
The Center for Grief Recovery
More Good News
Our colleague and friend Allan Schnarr has a new website. Please check it out for information about his work. We know you'll find the site a wonderful resource to add to your on-line destinations.www.feelingeverything.com