Temple Har Shalom offers services to the grieving | ParkRecord.com

Temple Har Shalom offers services to the grieving

Jania Sommers, left, seen her with Temple Har Shalom's Rabbi David Levinsky and membership director and volunteer coordinator Susannah Barnes, hosts bereavement sessions in Temple Har Shalom's library the second Wednesday of each month. The sessions are nondenominational and free and open to the public. (Jake Shane/Park Record)

Everyone suffers loss throughout their lifetime.

Loved ones die. Relationships end. And while there are no flesh wounds to show the pain, the emotional pain is real.

That’s why Jania Sommers, a licensed clinical social worker and director of professional services and a counselor at Jewish Family Service hosts a monthly bereavement support group at Temple Har Shalom.

The sessions began in last month, and the next session is Wednesday, Jan. 13.

"The group runs for 90 minutes and begins at 2 p.m.," Sommers told The Park Record. "It’s free and it’s nondenominational. While we are fortunate to be hosted at Temple Har Shalom, those who come participate in the group don’t have to be Jewish. It’s open to everyone."

The idea of the group is to create an opportunity for people to talk about their grieving and openly feel grief of all types.

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"Grief doesn’t have to be connected to a death," Sommers said. "So, I’m hoping people will come who are grieving the loss of a relationship or in some kind of disconnected state, whether it is with their families or someone who was once close to them."

The sessions are designed to be a safe space for participants to talk about their own experiences.

"One of the things about grief is that people tend to feel isolated from others because the loss is so profound and they don’t relate to the world like they did before," Sommers said. "I also think people are more fearful than we used to be because there have been a rise in acts of violence, so this is also a venue to talk about their free-floating fear, anxiety and connectedness."

Sommers has made a career of being a social worker for many years and in the past nearly 10 years, has gotten interested in compassion and mindful work.

"That is huge in the therapy profession now," she said. "I’m also very engaged in strength-based social work, which is exactly what it sounds like. You don’t look at people not through their illnesses and diagnoses, but in terms of what’s working for them and how you can make more of what’s working for you."

Sommers, who teaches at the University of Utah in the College of Social Work, does a lot of work centered around compassion for others, self compassion and meditation.

"In fact, we did a loving kindness meditation last month and did a progressive relaxation practice," she said.

One of the goals Sommers has for the group is to give people some resources about how to manage grief physically as well as emotionally.

"One thing we do in our culture is separate our heads from our bodies as if they are distinct components, but they are not," she said. "One thing that is becoming more and more evident in therapy is for the patient to go through an issue and not around it.

"There is a phrase by Tich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist priest, that goes, ‘Cradle your anger like a baby,’" Sommers said. "That’s where you get close to the emotion and feel it so you can better deal with it, rather than push it away or hide it."

While the group is designed to help support people who are grieving, it is not a substitute for counseling, according to Sommers.

"We just want people to know they aren’t the only ones who are grieving," she said.

The bereavement group is one of the many ways Temple Har Shalom can serve the local community, said Rabbi David Levinsky.

"The Temple is here to meet people’s religious needs, but also their emotional needs," Levinsky said. "We want to do that in a way that not only meets the needs of the Jewish community, but also Park City.

"Religious traditions are very good at discussing unanswerable questions," he said. "Loss is one of those we can really answer with our minds, but we can resolve them with our hearts. I’m glad the temple is offering this program for people who are suffering from loss."

Jania Sommers, a licensed clinical social worker and director of professional services and a counselor at Jewish Family Service, hosts bereavement support groups at Temple Har Shalom, 3700 Brookside Ct., every second Wednesday of the month from 2 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. The groups are free and open to the public. For more information, call Susannah at 435-649-2276 ex. 17.