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Grief, Get Ye Behind Me!

September 15, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, and when you lose a spouse of almost half a century, it is particularly trying. No one knows this better than 73-year-old Janet Simon.

"When I got married, I was 20, and we stayed married for 48 years," explained Simon, who lost her husband, Al, 31?2 years ago. "He was part of me."

She sought refuge at a local bereavement group, sharing stories and feelings with others who had suffered the loss of their spouses. With the help of various members, she was able to get through the initial stage of mourning.

That was then. This is now.

Simon said she still hurts inside, but she now longs for a social life with people who understand that her whole world has undergone a significant change.

This led her to get involved with a new group, L'Chaim–To Life!, which has its first meeting on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 10:30 a.m., at the JCC Klein Branch in Northeast Philadelphia. The organization plans to run social activities for post-bereavement widows and widowers over 55.

"[We]'re all in the same boat," began Simon. "[We] all understand what it is to be a widow or widower. Believe me, when you've lost your spouse, it's completely different."

Rivka Powers, the director of social services at the Klein and the person who developed the concept, aimed to get folks to meet, even suggesting that the socialization may even spur love interests. Still, she was adamant about the fact that first and foremost, it represents an avenue to meet friends.

"It is not a singles' group," insisted Powers. "The women want to meet other women; they want to be able to go out for coffee afterward. They want to network and make friends."

Norma Miller, 77, who lost her husband Milton two years ago, is excited to get the group rolling. "It's social time now," she said. "I'd love to go see musical shows, and have entertainers come to us."

As for dating someone new, however, Miller's interest level is at "none whatsoever."

On the other hand, Simon - who described herself as a rather "young 73" - would not be opposed to the idea.

"If a man asked me out to dinner, I wouldn't say no."

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