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She Offers 'Grief-Relief' for Those in Need

June 8, 2006 By:
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Pamela G. Weinstein
When Pamela G. Weinstein, 56, tended to terminally ill patients at a hospice unit at the Hospital at University of Pennsylvania back in 1987, she recognized that not only the patients needed help.

"I realized that there was a big loss when the patient dies, because the families lost their jobs in a sense," said Weinstein, referring to the effort that caretakers expend on dying patients, who are suddenly removed from their lives.

With the caretaker - not the patient - in mind, Weinstein wondered if she could somehow provide counseling to grieving families.

"I began to pursue the need for it," she said. "It made sense."

Weinstein, who earned a Bachelor of Science with an emphasis on social work from Temple University, began to take classes offered by the National Hospice Organization, and transformed herself into a grief counselor.

Soon after, she began working with Joseph Levine & Son Memorial Chapel in Trevose, where she currently provides what she calls "grief-relief" sessions.

"When you're grieving, you feel crazy. You don't know if you're going to live and come out on the other end as a whole person," said Weinstein. "If you haven't been through this before, you don't know that you're going to get through it."

The Levine's Grief Support Group meets every other week during most months of the year. Broken into two groups with about 12 people in each, the sessions cater to those in the first and second years of mourning. The first-year group is for recent widows and widowers; those in the second-year gathering aim to move beyond the loss and get on with the rest of their lives.

"In the first year, you'll hear, 'I can never live without him,' " she said. "In the second year, you'll hear, 'Now I can go to the opera without having him sit there and fall asleep.' "

While her group is open to most of those in grief, there are two types of cases that she does not touch: relatives of people who committed suicide and those who are mourning the death of a child.

The old saying has it that time heals all wounds, but Weinstein, who is the mother of two sons, said it's not that easy.

"It's what you do with it," she emphasized. "Time means to sit back and look forward, and relive the stories and try to make sense of the meaning of that relationship in your life. Some people turn the corner in nine months. Some people just begin their grief in nine months."

Her Initial Battle With Grief

As a young girl growing up in Overbrook Park, Weinstein shared a room with her grandmother for many years. Her first battle with grief came shortly after the beloved woman's death.

"She loved me more than anybody, and when she died I was distraught for almost 10 years. I guess that was the beginning. I couldn't stop thinking about her," revealed Weinstein. "I finally did come to terms with it and remember it positively."

In her grief-relief sessions, she noticed that men and women are much different in how they cope with loss.

"A woman's grief is more acceptable. A man tends to hide it," she said, noting that most people in her groups are women. "Also, I think in our society people view men as more helpless, in a sense. They need more assistance, where women are homemakers and are more capable of doing things."

Weinstein said that there are instances when people initially turn against God after a tragic life event. Such feelings, though, rarely last.

"I tell them," said Weinstein, "that it will come back."

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