When it comes to coping with bereavement, men and women move in different directions. Women are often more verbal and naturally inclined to share their feelings with others. They gravitate towards support groups that provide a space for sharing and feel secure in those environments.
Men often speak less about their emotions and tend to look for practical solutions to their problems. “It takes longer for men to build trust among themselves, making them less likely to participate in support groups or to build the kinds of networks they can go to when they need them,” said OneFamily psychologist Yonatan Amit.
“But they do need them,” he added. “Men relate to their bereavement in ways that leave them with less support.”
To address the situation, OneFamily organized a therapeutic two-day trip exclusively for bereaved men. The 35 participants took time away from their busy schedules to focus on their bereavement, connect to other men who have experienced the same loss, participate in a variety of group therapies, and gain strength that will carry them through their everyday lives.
They took part in group building and bonding activities. They also had a chance to laugh together and share lighter moments, demonstrating that life continues and must be lived to the fullest.
The first activity was designed to give them a sense of belonging. Each father shared his story of loss with the group, creating instant connections.
“I am proud I had the chance to meet fathers I knew about only from the news, unfortunately,” said Eliezer Rosenfeld, whose son Malachi was murdered on his way home from a basketball game in 2015, and whose his son Yizhak was killed in a flash flood while serving in the IDF in 2002.
“It was exactly what we needed, to come here,” he continued. “At the start, we received words of comfort to cope with our loss. By the end, we felt much lighter and had fun, forgetting our pain.”
Although the group included fathers who were bereaved as much as 15 years ago alongside those who lost children over the past year, the common experience of losing a loved one resonated throughout the room.
At Yonatan’s urging, the group also shared personal details about their lives. One of the participants revealed that he had been the first boy to hold his Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel after Jerusalem was reunified in the Six Day War and the Kotel was under Israel’s control for the first time in 2,000 years.
“It was amazing,” said Rabbi Ohad Teharlev, whose son Elhai was killed in a car ramming attack in April. “We are here on the merit of our children but we see that we have so much in common in our lives. We are very grateful to OneFamily for this experience. “
OneFamily plans more trips for bereaved fathers throughout 2018, and a support group for hundreds of bereaved fathers across the country.
See media coverage of the trip: