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No timeline for grieving

Weitman is new leader for Widow Support Group

Psychologist Garen Weitman will be helping to fill a great need for a segment of the elder citizen population.

Those citizens will be helping to fill a need for Weitman, too.

Weitman has accepted the role of facilitator for the Widowed Support Group of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, which begins meeting on Sept. 5 in the Cedar room.

'When I moved to this community to start my practice, I knew I wanted to become involved with senior citizens,' Weitman said. 'I love working with them.'

A conversation with ACC executive director Brenda Suteu was enough to get Weitman on board as the new facilitator, and the group will be meeting on the first Wednesday of each month, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

'I wanted to do something to connect me with the community that wouldn't be in the treatment role,' Weitman said. 'My idea is to find out what the needs of the group members are, then set up a program that meets them. I want them to have a supportive and welcoming atmosphere.'

Dana Tassos, the ACC's client services coordinator, will be the supervisor of the long-established program, and she believes Weitman has the qualities that will help the group continue to be successful.

'She is very down to earth and easy to talk to,' Tassos said. 'That is very important in a facilitator. She will make people in the group feel at ease and safe. I feel Garen will do a great job.'

Weitman will be guiding senior citizens through perhaps the most traumatic event of their lives - losing a spouse. And it is something they largely must deal with alone.

'There are a lot of family and friends rallying around at first,' Tassos said. 'But that falls away because they want to get on with their lives. Yet there's no timeline for grieving.

'There is a real need to talk to people all the time who have experienced the same loss. Surprisingly, there's not a lot of resources out there. There's some for the early stages, but there are not a lot of ongoing groups.'

For a widow or a widower there are practical issues they suddenly must face: Financial issues, traveling, socializing, cooking for one.

But the emotional issues are the toughest.

'They ask, 'How do I go on? How do I live a meaningful life?'' Tassos said. 'They go from 'we' to 'me.' They have to reframe their images of themselves.

'The sadness never completely goes away, but they can still live a meaningful life. They can still get a lot of enjoyment.'

'Pain is sort of like the waves of the ocean,' Weitman said. 'It comes in and goes out. But out of pain comes growth. Through such a great loss, people often become more empathic with others, if they process their feelings and emotions.'

Instead of stifling the pain of the loss of a spouse, Weitman says senior citizens must deal with it.

'Grief can get complicated if people fight it or if they have feelings of guilt,' Weitman said. 'They need to forgive themselves and take care of themselves, both emotionally and physically. They also need to seek support from family and friends and get professional help if it's needed.'

Besides her own professional and personal qualities, Weitman can call on a wide range of guest speakers. Before becoming a psychologist, Weitman had a career in law enforcement, and her husband is an officer in the Lake Oswego Police Department.

'I have a real good pool of resources,' Weitman said. 'From people in the mental health profession to law enforcement.'

Tassos says the resumption of the Widowed Support Group is eagerly anticipated.

'When it went on hiatus, we immediately got calls of, 'Are we starting again?'' she said.

The Widowed Support Group is open to all senior citizens who have lost a spouse or a significant other, whether it has been for six months or five years.

For more information about Garen Weitman, go to her Web site at www.drweitman.com or call 503-684-1483. Her office is located at 14523 Westlake Drive in Lake Oswego.

The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center is located at 505 G Ave. For more information about support groups, call Dana Tassos at 503-635-3758.