Coping with Death and other Life Cycle Events

I have updated this page to include resources which the JCC Nursery School’s Life Cycle Committee, which I started after my Mom died, compiled for life cycle events such as:

Birth (post-partum depression, miscarriage, infertility), Adoption, Divorce, Illness (living with illness and caring for someone with long-term illness), and Death/Bereavement

On the 2nd anniversary of my Mother’s death, March 4, 2012, I am sharing this resource page with you. For more than a year, I have been searching for books and online resources, networking with community social workers and bereavement specialists to compile a list that would benefit me, my family and friends who I care about.  I have found that often, my friends have friends they wish to help in sad times too.  I have emailed this list to those in need and it is now also posted on my daughters’ school website.  Over and over I hear about the need for something like this at other schools and community organizations.  Many of the resources I have sought out have a Jewish perspective which may help you but if you are not Jewish, perhaps you will find solace in the words and intentions anyway.  It’s a big step to even read this part of the blog.

I wish I didn’t know how to talk so freely about death but since my Mom’s early death led me on this journey, I want to make it a little more bearable for you.  Please feel free to add your comments and suggestions for what helped you and your friends cope with death.

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When there is a loss in one’s family, we often feel not only overwhelmed by our own feelings but we also struggle to find ways to talk to our children about death and dying.  I have created this resource guide to offer families a way of having conversations and sharing a very difficult subject.  With these age-appropriate books for children on death and dying, along with articles, resources and links, I hope that you will feel better equipped to face this with your children.  While it can be difficult, children will continue to grapple with the difficult concepts of illness and death for a lifetime and my hope is that this difficult journey can also bring closeness to your family.

Please use this blog as an ongoing resource for your family with links to all of these articles and books lists long after you have initially felt you needed to look at this today.  Each stage of grief brings new questions and each stage of your child’s life brings new questions, which you may need to answer differently than you had previously.

First Stop for kids:

Sesame Street –   I wish I had known about this sooner!          If you do nothing else, visit this site.  I could tell much thought and research went into making these videos and words.  My kids watched the videos over and over again while I teared up behind them but they connected with the puppets and responded well to the messages.  It’s a safe first step.


Talking to Kids About Death

How to help your child cope with a death of a loved one

Motherless Jewish Mother

It’s tough not having a bubbe around to tell you how perfect your kids are

What to Expect at a Shiva

Providing comfort for the mourners

Shiva Customs

During shiva the entire physical environment of the mourner is transformed to acknowledge the immediacy of death.

By Anita Diamant

Shiva, the First Seven Days of Mourning

Shiva is observed in the home as an intensive mourning period for close relatives.

By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin


On Being with Those Who are Dying

The Jewish tradition of being at the bedside of the dying is of immense value, not only for the dying person but also for those about to be bereaved–and for all of us, who must learn to face death.

By Audrey Gordon

“Judaism shields mourners from being overwhelmed by (this kind of) guilt because the community shares in the care of the dying so that they are never left alone. The community provides reassurances that everything appropriate was done. To the extent that I am a part of the community, part of me was there when he died, and so I need not fear.”

Book list

Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief – Martha Whitmore Hickman-  A little morsel of guidance and relevant (adult) advice that always seems to know how one is feeling on any given day.

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney – Judith Viorst – When Barney, a pet cat, dies his master decides to have a funeral for him. The little boy tries to think of ten good things to say about Barney but can only think of nine. Finally his father helps him with a tenth. The book is gentle and positive.

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death – Brown, K.B. & Brown, M.  – Another in the popular dinosaur series from Laura and Marc Brown, contents include “What does alive mean?,” “Why does someone die?,” “What does dead mean?,” “Feelings about death,” “Saying good-bye,” “Keeping customs,” and “Ways to remember someone.”

Badger’s Parting Gifts. by S. Varley – Following Badger’s peaceful death, his friends recall their special memories of how he taught each of them something special – Badger’s parting gifts.

My Grandson Lew.  Charlotte Zolotow –  Six year old Lewis remembers many special things about Grandpa who died four years earlier. Since Lewis never asked, Mother never told him of Grandpa’s death. Both share their loving memories and find this less lonely than remembering him alone.

Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children. Mellonie, B. and Ingpen, R.  Sydney: Bantam, 1983. (PS/SA) A simple, well illustrated book describing that there is a beginning and an ending for every living thing – insects, birds, plants, people.

Community Support Options

Susie Kessler is the director of our adult support programs at the JCC She can be reached at 646.505.5726 for more information.

The JCC’s major social service partner is the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS)­– a diverse network of a wide range of social service programs for people of all religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Visit or call 212.582.9100 for more information.

Bereavement Services

If you have recently lost a parent, spouse/life-partner, sibling, or child, please call The Shira Ruskay Center of The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS) at 212.632.4608. Their trained professionals will help you join an 8-week Jewish bereavement support group or tell you about ongoing monthly support groups, depending on your needs. These groups provide comfort, emotional and spiritual support, as well as practical coping strategies for those suffering from loss. Calling this number will also provide you with all location and cost information as well as any additional referral information that might be helpful.  They also have regularly scheduled holiday bereavement events held at the JCC.

New York Jewish Healing Center – National Center for Jewish Healing

Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS ) resources:

Loss and Bereavement for Children and Adolescents

Professionally run groups and opportunities to deal with the impact of the loss in a supportive, structured setting. Call 212.632.4692.

Shira Ruskay Center: Care for the Seriously Ill

Our social workers and chaplains offer guidance and counseling, information and referral, and practical help to individuals and families. Call 212.632.4608. or visit

Doula to Accompany and Comfort

Training volunteers who provide companionship, comfort and practical support for those whose life expectancy is 18 months or less. To become a doula, or to request a doula, call 212.632.4768.

Caregiver Support

If you are a spouse, sibling, or adult child caring for an older person with a serious illness or physical/cognitive limitations, we can help you find supportive programs or services that you need. Call Rabbi Stephanie Dickstein of the Shira Ruskay Center, 212.632.4726

NYC Self-Help Center

Free, confidential telephone information and referral to people seeking self-help/mutual support groups that meet for a wide variety of concerns throughout the five boroughs. Call 212.632.4709.

J11—The UJA-Federation of New York Resource Line

For information about the health and human service agencies in the Federation network providing assistance to the community. Call 1.877.UJ.NYJ11 (1.877.852.6951).

Visiting Chaplain Service (VCS)

Dealing with illness, loneliness, isolation or loss? Schedule a confidential visit in your home, hospital room, hospice, or assisted living facility. Call Rabbi Schreiber at 212.362.3537.

Mollie and Jack Zicklin Jewish Residential Hospice

Warm and comprehensive end-of-life care in a Jewish setting. Affiliated with UJA-Federation of New York and operated by Metropolitan Jewish Health Systems. Call 212.420.3370, ext. 300.

Compassion and Choices of New York

Information, support and advocacy to terminally ill patients and their families.  212.561.9175 or

Plaza Jewish Community Funeral Chapel

A not-for-profit chapel located on the Upper West Side representing all streams of Jewish life and practice. Call 212.769.4400.

Ackerman Institute for the Family

Family therapy for a wide variety of concerns. Call 212.879.4900.

Birth and Postpartum Support

On behalf of the Nursery School at the JCC, congratulations to you and your family on the birth or adoption of your daughter/son!  We know this may be a hectic time for you, so we want to offer our support and information about resources to help you and your family during this time of excitement and change. *

School Support Options

  • Classroom Teachers
    Do not hesitate to speak with your child’s teachers to see how he/she may be adjusting to changes at home.  Teachers also have a wealth of advice on child development and can share tips on helping your child through the process.

JCC Support Options

  • JCC – Adult Support Programs
    JCC Adult Support programs exist to provide support and help people find the resources they need. For more information on JCC Support programs please contact Susie Kessler @ 646.505.5726 or
  • JCC Infants and Young Children
    A division of the JCC which nurtures families by cultivating experiences where children can thrive, parents can connect, and families can grow together.  For more information, contact Miriam Leviton at 646.505.5723 or
  • JCC – Welcome to the World
    For families that just had a baby, please contact Patty Diaz at 646.505.5743 or for a “Welcome to the World” gift bag which includes a baby present and a discount certificate for your first JCC class with your new baby.

Community Support Options

  • You Plus 2
    A company created by a new mother of 2 children who identified a need to provide services to moms adjusting to being a new mom of 2. It is a time management and life strategy consulting service for busy moms of two; provides services (including support groups, private counseling) on how to adjust to your changes
  • JBFCS – Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services
    According to its website, “JBFCS has one mission – to get help to those who need it. JBFCS offers more than 175 social service and mental health programs to all New Yorkers.”
    Address: 135 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10020
    Phone: Toll-free: (888) 523-2769 (888-JBFCS-NY)
  • Postpartum Support International
    It is not uncommon to experience postpartum emotional challenges following giving birth.  According to its website, “Postpartum Support International is dedicated to helping women suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, the most common complication of childbirth. We also work to educate family, friends and healthcare providers so that moms and moms-to-be can get the support they need and recover.”
    Support Helpline: 800.944.4PPD (4773)
  • Please note, the JCC does not receive any compensation for mentioning any of the resources identified above.

Book List 

There are numerous books to help older children, parents, and families as a whole adapt to the introduction of a new sibling.

  • I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother, Selina Alko, 2009
  • When the New Baby Come, I’m Moving Out, Martha Alexandra, 1979
  • I Used to be the Baby, Robin Ballard, 2002
  • This Baby, Kate Banks, 2011
  • There’s Going to be a Baby, John Burmingham & Helen Oxenbury,    2010
  • A New Baby at Your House, Joana Cole, 1997
  • The Baby Sister, Tomie de Paola, 1996
  • Silly Baby, Marie-Loiuse Fitzpatrick, 2010
  • Julius the Baby of the World, Kevin Henkes, 1990
  • Angelina’s Baby Sister, Katherine Holabird, 2000
  • My Heart is a Magic House, Julie Jacob, 2007
  • The New Baby, Mercer Mayer, 1983
  • Best Ever Big Brother (Sister), Karen Katz, 2006
  • Peter’s Chair, Ezra Jack Keats, 1967
  • What a Good Big Brother, Diane Wright-Landolf, 2009
  • Lola Reads to Leo, Anna McQuinn, 2012
  • Will You Still Love Me?, Carol Roth, 2010
  • Cornelius P. Mud Are You Ready for Baby?,  Barney Satlzberg, 2009
  • Baby on the Way, William Sears, MD Marthan Sears, RN & Ke
  • Big Brother Now, Annette Sheldon, 2002
  • What Baby Needs, William Sears, M.D., Martha Sears, R.N., and Christie Watts Kelly
  • I’m a Big Brother, Joanna Cole and Rosalinda Kightley  (also available as “I’m a Big Sister”)
  • I’m Going to be a Big Sister, Brenda Bercun (also available as “I’m Going to be a Big Brother”)
  • How to be a Baby by Me, the Big Sister, Sally Lloyd Jones, Sue Heap
  • Big Sister (So You’re Going to be A . . . ), Marianne Richmond  (also available as “Big Brother”)
  • Note: Our own JCC Nursery School library has many relevant books.

Infertility/Miscarriage Support

Fertility Issues

First of all, you are not alone.  Fertility issues are becoming more and more prevalent. Many families struggle with primary and secondary infertility.  It is recommended for women under the age of 35 who have been trying to conceive for more than 6 months to seek the assistance of a fertility doctor, or endocrinologist.

The science, definition and diagnosis of fertility is changing everyday. For that reason, many of the resources available here are via links to websites where the information is dynamic and updated.

A helpful starting point for anyone at any stage in their struggle with infertility is The National Infertility Association .  Here you will find information on Diagnosis & Management, Support & Services and Family Building Options.

For a general overview of fertility statistics, causes and issues:

Jewish Specific Information on Infertility:

Ectopic Pregnancy

Jewish Genetic Diseases

Some of these genetic diseases contribute to fertility issues.


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Treatment Options

Before You See a Fertility Doctor:

Also complete this worksheet before your appointment:

Male Fertility Issues Worksheet

NY Fertility Clinics:

NYU Fertility

Cornell Center For Reproductive Health and Fertility

RMA Fertility

Sher Feritlity Clinics

Columbia Fertility

For sperm donation information:

Wanted: A few good sperm

Fairfax Cryobank

California Cryobank

For egg donation information:

Parents via Egg Donation Organization

Family Creations


NYU Fertility Drs Blog


One of the most established surrogacy agencies in the country has an office in New York now.

Growing Generations

A wonderful article about updates in surrogacy: Much Has Changed in Surrogate Pregnancies

High Risk Obstetrical Care

If you are able to conceive, but do so with IVF assistance or have difficulty carrying a pregnancy. You may require the care of a high-risk obstetrician. 

A Shoulder, A Hug and A Laugh

Once you know all the scientific reasons, been poked and prodded and given shots to yourself, the most complicated part of fertility is the everyday struggle, worry and emotions.

If you are looking for a supportive forum try

Bitter Infertiles Podcast

Stress Free Fertility

999 Reasons to Laugh

None in the Oven

It started with a bump

A Blog About Love

Infertility Story:

Miscarriage, Pregnancy Loss and Grief

Societally, there is no ritual or support for the tragic loss of a pregnancy, but this loss is not something you should suffer alone.

Miscarriage – The Loneliest Grief of All

Unspoken Grief – Breaking the Loss of Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Neonatal Loss

Silent Grief

Memorializing Your Infant After Miscarriage or Stillbirth


Coping with divorce is complicated on many levels particularly when young children are involved. Inevitably a divorce will affect your children and the purpose of this article is to provide various resources to help guide you through this painful process.

The JCC offers support groups for families going through divorce and for single parents. Currently the JCC offers a 7-session group to discuss steps in mourning, rebuilding self-esteem, handling stress and depression, moving away from disappointment, dealing with family members and dating again. The groups form regularly and are co-sponsored and facilitated by trained specialists from the Divorce and Single-Parent Family Support Programs of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. Groups are co-sponsored by the congregations on the Upper West Side. If you would like to join a group please call Arlene Hahn at 646.588.9804 or email

The JCC also offers babysitting services you can use while attending a support group. The babysitting room has equipment for children of various ages and stages. Two caring and attentive babysitters will engage your children in age-appropriate activities. Babysitting is available for up to 2 hours at a time. If you have any questions please call 646.505.4467 for more information.

In the following list of resources and books we tried to cover the main issues that arise when going through a divorce. For example, how to tell your children, how to provide stability and structure during the process and thereafter, how to deal with anger and depression, coping with financial issues and how to co-parent with your ex.

Potentially helpful websites

Children’s books

  • Vicki Lansky. It’s Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children During Divorce
  • Claire Masurel. Two Homes
  • Marc Brown. Dinosaurs Divorce (Dino Life Guides for Families)
  • Tamara Schmitz. Standing on My Own Two Feet: A Child’s Affirmation of Love in the Midst of Divorce
  • Marian De Smet and Nynke Mare Talsma. I Have Two Homes

Books for parents

  • Constance Ahrons. The Good Divorce
  •   Cantelo, Anne.  It’s No Big Deal, Really
  •   Clavel, Phil.  Dad Alone: How to Rebuild Your Life and Remain an Involved Father
  •   After Divorce
  •   Herlem, Fanny.  Great Answers to Difficult Questions (Divorce)
  •   Lansky, Vicki. Vicki Lansky’s Divorce Book for Parents
  •   Long, Nicholas.  Making Divorce Easier on Your Child
  • Isolina Ricci. Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes for Your Child
  • Abigail Trafford. Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life
  • Elizabeth Thayer and Jeffrey Zimmerman. The Co-Parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict After a Difficult Divorce
  • Violet Woodhouse and Dale Fetherling. Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions During Divorce

Illness and Caregiving Support

When a loved one becomes ill we find ourselves in a very frightening lonely place with many questions As the parents of young children, there is the added complication of explaining illness to a small child.  As a concerned loved one, we have many resources through the JCC and the world of medicine.  Doctors, nurses, social workers and even the hospital-based rabbis are available to us.  Of course the primary role of the doctors and nurses is to take care of the ill patient, but they are also available to help the family navigate through a difficult time.

Even with all the available resources we may not know what questions to even ask of the doctors or nurses.  If we can’t find the words to form the questions, first we need to think about what we are trying to understand: is it the disease itself, the medications, the surgery, the prognosis, the long term situation, the procedure, the effects on the relationship with the family, etc.  Once we can clarify what it is we want to know we can begin to utilize the resources availanle. It may be enough to explain to the nurse that I am uncomfortable watching as my mother winces every time she gets an injection or to tell the surgeon that I do not know how I will take care of my father after his knee is replaced or share with the neurologist that dementia is a very scary word.

Remember doctors are human. Some will immediately pick up on our cues and anxieties and be able to answer even the unasked questions.  Other doctors may need more coaxing.  And still others may not want to be bothered. We have to be reasonable in our expectations.  We cannot expect a personal lecture on all aspects of a disease and the treatment options; but a doctor should be able to discuss the current situation with concerned family.

Potentially helpful websites and organizations

Alzheimer’s Disease:

See JCC Resources below.

Hip Replacement information:

Taking care of yourself so you can take care of someone else:

See JCC Resources below.

Breast Cancer:

See JCC Resources below


See JCC Resources below.

Kids Konnected was developed on the premise that when a parent gets cancer, the entire family is affected and the needs of the children must be addressed. Our programs started in California and soon spread nationwide.Eleven year old Jon Wagner-Holtz established kids Konnected in 1993 after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Jon felt alone with his feelings, his friends didn’t understand, and he really wanted to talk to another kids who might be going through the same experience.  Jon approached the Orange County, California Race for the Cure, a part of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, who granted him $250 to start a brand new phone connection, Jon’s own Hot Line, with other kids in his community.We were originally known as the Komen Kids, Kids Konnected grew quickly and was granted a 501c3 non-profit corporation status in 1997.  Kids Konnected became it’s own non-profit corporation to better facilitate growth. Jon says, “The success of a program lies in the tears of a child being wiped away by a caring friend and in the quiet ‘Thanks’ of a sick parent that can worry less about the emotional stress their illness has on their children.” Kids helping Kids is what we’re all about. Because of our “Konnection” you don’t have to be alone anymore.

Hope the Bear Care Package

Our Hope the Bear Care Packages are individually tailored to each family based on the information we receive. Every package includes a “Hope” teddy bear for each child in the family, books, workbooks, brochures, and additional information to help the family better cope with cancer.  Our volunteers make security blankets for those under 4, and special bereavement packages for children and teens that have a parent with cancer or who have lost a parent to cancer. Donate a package to a child of our choosing, or order a package for a child you know who is coping with cancer.

At Kids Konnected, we know that cancer affects the entire family. Each of your children will experience your diagnosis in a different way and with different feelings. Cancer is not an easy subject to talk about and many parents try to avoid the topic in fear that they will scare their children. At Kids Konnected, our approach is to provide a supportive environment to the children so that they can share their feelings alongside other children going through the same thing. We provide free services such as support groups, summer camps, education, and fun events that allow the children to have a break from their parents cancer diagnosis.

When a cancer touches a parent you know, it can be challenging to know what you can do to help. At Kids Konnected, we provide support, education, community and understanding to children who have a parent with cancer or have a parent that has died from cancer. We provide custom care packages for the children, resources, support groups, bereavement workshops, summer camps and special events.

Kidney Disease:

JCC Resources

Please visit the JCC’s website for up to date information.

The Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’s Wellness Program- Caring and Support

Inspiring New Ideas For Living Well with Parkinson’s

The Edmond J. Safra Parkinson’ Wellness Program offers support for those individuals living with Parkinson’s and those who love and care for them. Guided by knowledgeable caring professionals in a supportive relaxed environment. Intake required. Call 646.505.5744 for more information.

Exercise Programs for Cancer Care

The following free classes are for individuals living with cancer and are co-sponsored by The Comprehensive Breast Center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospitals and The JCC in Manhattan.

To register for programs, please call JoAnn Fox Weingarten, 212-523-7275

if a relative has Alzheimer’s or other dementias: support groups for family caregivers

Adapting to the deterioration of a family member’s ability to remember, reason, and relate becomes more bearable when shared with others who are experiencing the same loss. Co-sponsored by the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Please note that this is not a drop-in group. In order to join the group you need to call 646.823.6324.

Books for Children

How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness: Supportive, Practical Advice from a Leading Child Life Specialist, Kathleen McCue, Ron Bonn

Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer…a hopeful, helpful book for kids.  Ellen McVicker

The Invisible String. Patrice Karst

Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies. Janis Silverman

1 Response to Coping with Death and other Life Cycle Events

  1. Eve Earley says:

    I am sorry for your loss – it is a blessing to have shared this in your mother’s name. I’ve bookmarked it as a resource for the inevitable times to come. I came serendipitously – the search was for the prayer remembering “a woman of valor”. Clearly she was for having inspired this and you are for having produced it in her honor.

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