Friday, October 19, 1984
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
BY HEIDI PRESS
Local News Editor
Since its beginning in 1978,
SPACE, the National Council of
Jewish Women-sponsored service for
persons and their families who are
separated, divorced or widowed, has •
helped hundreds of men and women
survive that emotionally traumatic
Through drop-in support groups
led by trained facilitators, persons who
utilize the SPACE services learn that
they are not alone in facing this
traumatic disruption in their lives.
According to Executive Director
Roberta Freedman, more than 800
men, women and children are served
per year by the non-sectarian agency.
Today, nearly 2,700 persons are on the
SPACE mailing list. Programs include
drop-ins, retreats, lectures and work-
shops. Funding comes primarily from
the NCJW with additional monies
from personal and foundation dona-
tions and through admission and other
fees charged for the various meetings
SPACE's success in helping these
persons in transition is known com-
munity wide, but now there are new
needs to be met.
According to Freedman, a need
has arisen for support groups for the
:1 owing: children who have experi-
enced a death in the family, single
mothers who have custody of disabled
children, mothers who don't have cus-
tody of their children and men and
women over age 50 who find them-
In the past year, support groups
have begun to help persons in these
particular need areas. Some of the par-
ticipants or facilitators describe their
experiences in these meetings.
Although SPACE has groups for
children throughout the year, such as
its day for young people, "Living With
a Single Parent," held in September, a
need was seen by parents for a group
for children who experienced a death
in the family.
"Facilitated" by social worker
Simona Seiderman, who has experi-
ence dealing with persons who have
suffered bereavement, the group gave
children in these circumstances an
opportunity to verbalize. According to
Seiderman, the goal of the support
group is to allow the child to talk
about his feelings and recognize that
his feelings are normal.
"The kids are very open with their
feelings," Seiderman said about one
group of 8-10-year-olds. She found that
the children were articulate and with
that in mind she "showed them it's
okay to talk about their feelings."
How does she conduct the group?
When the children arrive they are in-
troduced to each other to break the ice.
Then, each is encouraged to tell which
family member died, the circum-
stances surrounding the death and
what the funeral was like.
Seiderman said parents sometime
feel that the death is too much for the
child to handle emotionally, and will
tell the child not to cry, rather than
help the child "cope with it." In her
group, the kids are encouraged to open
up, and then Seiderman helps them
find ways to cope.
Coping is a problem for single
parents, too, but to single mothers who
have disabled or seriously ill children,
it's small in comparison to other prob-
lems that must be faced. According to
Marsha Alfafara, a SPACE
"graduate," the biggest problem is
handling all the responsibility.
The mother of a severely retarded
daughter, Alfafara requested the
Single Parents of Disabled Children
group "because it was hard identifying
with other single parents."
A single parent of well children
certainly has a rough time, Alfafara
admits, but when that parent wants to
go out for the evening he or she can call
a neighborhood teenager. But when
the parent of a disabled or seriously ill
child has the same need, a person
trained in respite care is needed. The
biggest problem is getting respite
care," she said.
Often, women call her crying be-
cause they want to attend meetings of
her group but they can't find someone
to take care of the special child. One of
the goals of her group is to try and
build a resource of respite-care agen-
cies and facilities to help parents in
She and her co-facilitator, Rita
Kaplan, also are trying to increase-
attendance, thereby increasing the
support network of single parents ois
disabled kids. The group also hopes to
establish a camp fund.
She said she has seen women who
keep themselves homebound because
of their handicapped child. But, ac-
cording to Alfafara, "It's okay to get
out of the house and have a life of your
A clerical worker for J.C. Penney,
Alfafara went through training at
SPACE to be the group's facilitator.
Her training included an intensive
three-day program of communications
skills and-group dynamics.
"I'm really excited about this pro-
gram," Alfafara says. She is especially
happy when she sees the reactions of
people who are able to find support
through the group.
"People who' have come to the
meetings find out 'it's okay to feel like I
feel. I'm not alone.' It's good knowing
you're not the only one going through: -
Eileen Kirman, when she
attended the Mature People Alone
program of SPACE's Late Life Divorce