10 Tips for Choosing How You Do ‘Back to School 2020’

The decision to send your children back to school next school year is going to be a difficult one, no matter the choice you make. It is important to look at your individual family’s needs versus those of your friends, coworkers, or others. No matter your decision for your family, give yourself some grace as we do not know what the future holds or rather the ‘right decision’ because this is an ever-changing situation with a lot of unknowns.

Here are ten tips to help you as you make your decision:

1. Understand the options that are available to you.

This might be a little overwhelming at first because besides the local public school’s options, there are also options in private or home schooling. But understanding your options, both free and paid for, can help with making a well thought-out decision. Be creative and resourceful. Talk to friends to see what they are doing, not because you should follow them, but because they might have come up with something you didn’t think of, or have a shareable resource you didn’t know about.

2. Understand what is most important for your family.

Different families have different things they hold important. For some, the emotional toll it would take to send their children to school due to worrying would decrease their ability to work. Similarly, the emotional toll of trying to juggle the children’s schooling from home while also working from home may not be worth it either. What might be important for your family might be different for another.

3. Understand financially what you can do.

It’s okay if you cannot afford, either monetarily, emotionally, or time wise, to keep your children home; this is part of the decision-making process. If financially you have fallen on hard times and need to get back to work, you might decide to send your child back to the classroom to at least be able to pay for the essentials your family needs. It is best to sit down with your partner or family members to see who can contribute what, including financial, time, and emotional support. Are there options where you could split the cost or resources with another family? For instance, what if you brought in a retired teacher to work part-time with your children? Is there a local college student who is also taking virtual classes and could stay with your children?

4. Understand your backup plans.

What if you send your child to the classroom and there is an outbreak and quarantine is needed? What if someone in your home becomes sick, who will help homeschool the children? If normally Grandma is your backup plan, given the current situation that might not be available. It is best to create these backup plans now, before crisis time where you might not be able to think clearly of your options.

5. Understand the level of involvement each option needs from you as a parent.

Sending your children to school face-to-face still requires support and involvement from parents, but even more so if the child is at home. Is your child an independent worker, or do they need a lot of one-on-one attention in order to get their work done?

6. Understand your child’s best learning style.

The good news is we got to do a dry run in the spring, so we have a good idea about how much children learn with distance learning. But we shouldn’t only use that information, as we were crisis schooling and there were a lot of scary unknowns. Now though, hopefully we have learned from those situations to have a bit smoother sailing. We also have additional systems in place now that we have had 6 months of planning, versus the literal overnight implementation we did in the spring. But for some children, children who struggle with learning disabilities and require specialized help, the classroom might be a better fit if the parent found they were unable to meet the needs of their child. But another option might be finding a learning disability specialist seeking out in-home employment. Remember, many teachers are not comfortable returning to the classroom and are seeking out these special classroom arrangements. Many local Facebook groups have been set up, and even ads on Indeed or Care.com for these types of educators.

7. Understand the change policy within your chosen learning style.

Does your school allow you to change if things don’t work out? If you tried face-to-face, and there are multiple outbreaks, can you fully change back to online learning styles? If a vaccine becomes available can an online student return to the classroom? Would it sway your decision one way or the other if this wasn’t an option?

8. Understand what you can handle emotionally.

You have to remember you have a lot going on with yourself, and it is okay if you can’t add ‘teacher’ to your list of duties. There is a reason we have teachers go through schooling and certifications; not everyone is meant to be a teacher. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to send your children back into the classroom, but it may mean you need to find support, either through another family that is homeschooling, a trusted babysitter or family member, or a tutor or teacher outside the classroom. How much stress are you under in your own job? Are you a front-line worker seeing the ugly side of COVID-19 each day? Regardless of your decision to send your children back to school, your own emotional health is important. With the expansion of telehealth, even with crazy schedules and little time, you can now access counseling. You owe it to yourself and your children to be emotionally well, and help is available. You do not have to go at this alone.

9. Understand the health and risk factors of your own family.

Does Grandma live with you? Are you working in a high-risk field where you might potentially expose your child’s classroom? Do you yourself have a high-risk condition that could become fatal if you were exposed? It might not be worth the possible consequences to send your child back to school. But if your family is relatively healthy, can quarantine appropriately, then returning to school might be the choice for your family. It might make sense for you to speak with your child’s pediatrician who understands your child’s medical needs, and see if they have a recommendation either way, and understand why they may make that recommendation. Some early childhood diseases that might have occurred years ago and are forgotten could make your child more susceptible; it is important to understand your child’s risk.

10. Understand what the school will require for your children to go back to school and if your child could honestly follow through.

Is the school going to require 7-8 hours of mask wearing? If so, how does your child fare when wearing a mask for an hour at the store? Would they feel comfortable wearing it for the required school time? Also, could your child be in a classroom full of their friends, and not be physically close to them? For some children, this would be possible, and for others, just staying in their chair is a challenge during the school day. If your child cannot follow the recommendations, then a decision might be made to not return to the classroom. Work out a backup plan now before it becomes a non-choice.

This decision may be an easy one, and it may be a hard one, and it’s okay if you are unsure what exactly to do. You can only do your best, armed with the best information at the time, to make your decision. As more information becomes available your decisions may change, and in most cases there is flexibility in your decision-making. It’s important we have mercy for ourselves, we are under a lot of pressures all over, and there may not be ‘the best choice’ but at least the one that makes the most sense now. Good luck, be well, and be safe for the 2020-2021 school year.

Telehealth counseling appointments now available! JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. In addition, we’re one of the few remaining agencies in Central Florida that operates on a sliding fee scale (as low as $55 per session) for those who do not have insurance or have an insurance we do not accept. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today!


Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW
Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Director and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy.

Volunteer Spotlight: Becky Goldstein

Becky Goldstein, JFS Orlando Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry Volunteer

“My give back, at this time of my life, is to help people in need.” Not only does Becky Goldstein accomplish this goal through volunteering in JFS Orlando’s Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, but she does it by going above and beyond to make a valuable connection for JFS that is able to help even more people in need.

Becky first moved from Miami Beach to the Longwood area in 1990. After retiring in 2018 from 40 years of employment with the Social Security Administration, she spends her time volunteering and enjoying her family and friends. She learned about JFS from her friends who volunteer there. “In the past, I have either donated financially or with food during the food drive,” says Becky. “The Mitzvah Group at Congregation Beth Am had their scheduled once-a-month slot. Once I was retired, I was finally able to help fill that once-a-month slot with my time and not just money.” Since then, Becky has also helped by graciously picking up shifts whenever needed.

It was while working in the Pantry that Becky saw an opportunity to help even further. “One day, I came to my shift and the prior shift volunteers were talking about this specialty baby formula and how it can be used,” she recalls. A few times a year, JFS gratefully receives a donation of a hypoallergenic formula made especially for children with severe food allergies. Since the formula is so specialized, the Pantry has been waiting and looking for a way to get it into the right hands of someone who truly needs it.

“My daughter works for a pediatric gastroenterologist,” says Becky. “So I reached out to her. She checked with the office nutritionist and we found a place that will be able to distribute the prescription formula. The doctor’s office will be able to give the formula to moms whose insurance does not cover the cost of this extremely costly formula. I brought the formula to my daughter to bring to work.” Since making the connection in January, Becky has already picked up the formula twice in order to help these families in need!

Thank you, Becky, for all that you do for the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry and the clients we serve. Not only does your time and support help make sure families in need have food on their tables, but now it also makes sure children who couldn’t afford it otherwise are getting the proper nutrition they need!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Roles include helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. Although due to the pandemic volunteering at JFS Orlando is currently on hold, you can still begin your application for when the program re-opens by contacting us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

New Pantry Signs

In an effort to better facilitate and provide emergency food assistance, we have created some new signs for our food pantry! Check them out the next time you pass by us on Lee Road!

And don’t forget, if you know of someone who could use some FREE food during this pandemic to help make ends meet, refer them to us! Our Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry is open Monday – Thursday 9AM – 4PM. To pick-up food, please call 407-644-7593 to schedule an appointment.

7 Tips on Your Quest for Justice

The Hebrew term mishpat, meaning “justice”, occurs more than two hundred times in the Tanach. Throughout scriptures, its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably; to have the same mishpat [rule of law-human right] for the foreigner as the native, regardless of race or social status. Unfortunately, as highlighted for many during recent weeks, we live in a world short on equal rights and justice for all.

If you’re anything like me, the ongoing events of 2020 have been challenging, disheartening, and at times have felt overwhelming. To help combat these feelings and to maintain mental health, the following is a short list of suggestions to support individuals’ quest for justice, for others and for self.

1. Educate Yourself. You may start by asking tough questions and seeking honest answers within yourself. Do you recognize or deny that problems exist, and if so, which problems? Do you avoid the hard questions, always striving for comfort or are you vulnerable about your knowledge gaps and own biases? Do you allow your own mistakes or the mistakes of others to deter you from seeking truth or self-improvement? Are you able and willing to genuinely listen to others who look, think, or act differently from you?

Did you just experience any emotion or reaction after reading these initial questions, and if so, what do you think is causing you to feel this way? There is a plethora of books, movies, podcasts, interviews, virtual book clubs and classes to join or comb through if interested in educating yourself further on seeking justice. I encourage you to check these resources out; by doing so, you not only empower yourself, but you can empower others too! (Netflix, Amazon, and Apple TV are currently allowing some free movie rentals relating to social injustice and racism).

2. Listen to Others. Actively listen to others with open ears, mind, and heart with an understanding that the speaker has dignity and is fully deserving of love and compassion. Caution against growing deaf to others painful experiences and take care to not place your own status over others’ lived experiences. While listening, how might you hold space for curiosity in a way that honors others’ stories?

3. Express Yourself. Use your voice to represent yourself through journaling practices, social media platforms, protest, and conversations with others. Ask yourself, do you speak out when you witness injustice at work or educate peers on how injustices impact your profession? Allowing yourself the opportunity to have uncomfortable yet respectful conversations is a gift to yourself and to others as is representing yourself through honoring your story.

4. Donate and Serve. One of the reasons why I love JFS Orlando is because of the many volunteers who sacrifice their resources, including their time, to serve others, thus seeking justice. Ask yourself, what are you most passionate about and get creative. Identify organizations that seek to do justice in your same area of passion and get involved through acts of service.

5. Vote and Advocate. You’ve heard it before—register to vote, research each candidate, and go to the polls. Write to your local congress, sign a petition, advocate for policy change, support others.

6. Teach Justice. Early childhood development professionals agree that there is no age too young to begin teaching about justice through age appropriate lessons. Children’s literature has come a long way in the area of diversity with books and television shows that address the issues of justice, with an emphasis on kind and fair treatment for all.

7. Meditate and Pray. Mental health is impacted by injustice. Supporting justice is not risk free. You cannot choose both justice and the status quo. Maybe you have been feeling disconnected or lonely, experienced a decrease in trust with increased worry, panic, sadness or anger, find yourself second guessing things you have seen or heard, or maybe felt triggered by present or generational trauma. Injustice can decrease one’s hope in society, the government, and the future. Prioritize time alone to lean into your feelings through reflection, tending to your emotional responses and nervous system, while remembering that it is normal to feel the impact of injustice.

Limit your time on social media and time consuming the news. This does not mean that you choose to be ignorant of current events but instead to be mindful of how much time and content you allow to pass through your eyes and ears and into your mind and heart each day. You may find the practice of mindfulness, meditation, or prayer to be one of the best ways to seek justice for yourself and others.

May we allow the quest for justice to permeate our personal lives through influencing how we spend money, how we conduct our careers, through the way we choose to live in our neighborhoods and who we seek as friends. Continually questioning, how do we conduct ourselves, in our personal and professional lives or how does that reflect our beliefs and values? Justice begins within our personal, internal experience as we learn to represent and honor our own story. It then reaches outward as we become curious, listen and honor the stories of others. 

“To bring about justice, we must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try.”

—Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Activist

Justice be with you.


Author: Jessica Mauger, MSW

As someone who has embarked on her own counseling experiences, both in times of peace and chaos, Jessica understands the internal battle when beginning therapy. Aware of the courage it takes to start the process, she strives to provide a safe place where the counseling journey can evolve at the pace that feels natural for you.

Jessica received her Master’s degree in social work from the University of Central Florida and holds certification from Texas Christian University in Trust-Based Relational Intervention. As a bilingual (English/Spanish) therapist, Jessica embraces several modalities towards healing the whole person which include psychoeducation, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and client centered, solution focused approaches, with an emphasis on play and art therapy.

Volunteer Spotlight: JFS Orlando Board of Directors

The JFS Orlando Board of Directors has continued to be a pillar of support to the JFS staff during these unprecedented times. (Left to Right: Stuart Kramer, Rosalie Levy, Dick Appelbaum, Barbara Grossman, Marty Sherman, Lauren Bloom, Lynn Minkow, David Zissman; Not in picture: Sara Stern, Shari Wladis, Sarah Chasez, Maura Weiner)

JFS Orlando is there for individuals and families when they run into a crisis and need a helping hand to get back to stability. But who is there when JFS runs into an unprecedented emergency, like COVID-19? Answer: the JFS Orlando Board of Directors, including President Marty Sherman, Immediate Past President Dick Appelbaum, First Vice President Sara Stern, Second Vice President David Zissman, Treasurer Stuart Kramer, Secretary Shari Wladis, Lauren Bloom, Sarah Chasez, Barbara Grossman, Rosalie Levy, Lynn Minkow, and Maura Weiner. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the JFS Board has continued to support and advise the JFS staff. Although it wasn’t in quite the usual manner.

“We took the CDC guidelines very seriously,” said JFS Board President, Marty Sherman. “We decided not to meet in person and conducted our monthly board meeting via ZOOM conference calls.” Like so many groups and teams around the world, JFS Board meetings went virtual. In addition, Executive Director, Phil Flynn, kept board members up-to-date with daily notices of the agency’s activities, such as food distribution and counseling calls. “We have confidence in the job that Phil is doing,” said JFS Board Member, Lynn Minkow. “His communication with the board let us know that all was going as best as possible.”

A nonprofit board is made up of knowledgeable, caring, and generous individuals who want nothing but the best for the organization and its constituents in their care. Supporting their organization is how they give back and help make a difference in the world. That’s what it’s all about for Marty, who has been on the JFS Board for the past 18 years. “Our mission at JFS is my mission in life…Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept to ‘repair the world’ is the guiding force at JFS as it is in my life,” he said. “I feel it is important to always give back to your community and JFS is the best way to accomplish this in Orlando. We follow the guiding principles of our faith, yet we support the entire community. The majority of which, are not Jewish.”

For Lynn, being a JFS Board member for the last several years has family meaning. “I am proud to carry on the family interest in supporting the mission of JFS, and specifically the Pearlman Pantry. It is a way I can honor and continue my parents’ commitment to easing hunger in the community. I also appreciate the whole person approach that the agency offers as way to improve people’s lives on so many needed levels.” Whatever their reason for joining, all JFS Board members believe in the mission of the agency to help all those who need it, especially during a pandemic.

COVID-19 was certainly unexpected for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations alike. As soon as crisis hit, JFS knew it needed to be ready for the large influx of people in Greater Orlando looking for help. Although the JFS Staff was busy keeping their programs running, it couldn’t have done it without the behind-the-scenes support from the JFS Board. “Our principle role is to support and advise,” said Marty. “The JFS team are consummate professionals and they did not need their board getting in the way of doing their jobs. With our support (and the occasional delivery of gloves and sanitizing wipes), the team was able to execute their mission flawlessly.”

Thank you, Marty, Dick, Sara, David, Stuart, Shari, Lauren, Sarah, Barbara, Rosalie, Lynn, and Maura, for volunteering your time, energy, and expertise to JFS all year-round, especially during the whirlwind of these last few months. We are truly grateful for all you do for the JFS team and the clients we serve every day.

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Roles include helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org. Interested in joining the JFS Board of Directors? Please fill out our Board of Directors Application and email to Philip.Flynn@JFSorlando.org.

7 Mental Health Tips for Adjusting to the New Normal

“I can’t wait for things to get back to normal.” I know I have said it many times over the past couple of months and I hear it from all of my clients. The problem is, that may never happen. The way of life we were used to may be forever changed. But there are pieces of that way of life that we can absolutely get back, it just might look different as we move forward out of sheltering at home and into figuring out how to thrive again.

We have spent the past couple of months surviving. Surviving staying at home; surviving distance learning or working; surviving through loneliness; surviving through having COVID-19; surviving through all the losses we had to grieve; surviving through loss of jobs; and surviving through the unknown. Now we begin to learn how to thrive in our new normal.

Just as adjusting to sheltering at home took some time and effort, so will learning how to operate as we move back out into the world. Here are some tips on how to take care of your mental health as we adjust to moving outside of our homes and developing our new normal.

1. Take your time. You do not have to rush out and go to everything just because it is open.  Check in with yourself on what feels comfortable for you. Identify what you feel is important for you to do and make a plan on trying things one at a time. If you are not ready to sit down and eat at a restaurant then do not feel pressured to do so. Maybe start with ordering food and picking it up. Call up places you want to visit and ask about their safety precautions to make sure that you come prepared and that you feel they are doing things to stay safe to help you choose where you venture out.

2. Stay in the present. There are still a lot of unknowns about how things are going to look in a few months. A few months ago, we didn’t even have a clue we would walk through this sheltering in place experience. That tells us that a lot can happen in a short amount of time. Work on staying focused on today and what you can do with today. You can practice this best by learning mindfulness skills. You can use some apps like Mindfulness Coach and Headspace or the Mindful website www.mindful.com

3. Don’t let fear rule your life. It is good to be cautious and concerned but we do not need to be fearful. Worry and anxiety are going to pop up and that is normal. But we do not have to stay in fear, worry and anxiety. Try to reframe from following predictions about what will happen as that tends to increase our fear especially because there are just too many unknowns. Continue to limit your news intake as I hope you have been doing. Try to focus on facts and events that are happening in the present. Continue to practice hand washing and social distancing. 

4. Keep having a routine. If you are able to keep the one you have been using, great; if not, create a new routine as things transition. This helps you feel a sense of control and consistency with all the changes.

5. Be kind to yourself and others. There is a lot of judgment going on about safety, reopening, going out, what precautions are required, etc. Kindness can go a long way as we move forward. Do not judge yourself for the choices you make and try to reframe from judging others. Go easy on yourself if you are struggling with fear or worry. Practice self care things such as getting good sleep, exercising, eating well, doing enjoyable activities, and staying connected.

6. Keep the good things you have gained during sheltering at home. Have you been exercising regularly? Did you pick up a new hobby? Have you been using video chat more to stay connected to family and friends? Have you been reading more? Find ways to incorporate those activities and habits in your new routine.

7. Connect with family and friends. As you feel ready, see your family and friends. You can start off by meeting outside at a park or hanging out in a backyard. As you feel comfortable, you can visit in homes, restaurants and out in public. Being in-person with those we love and care about has been dearly missed and it is a great way to help your mental health.

Remember that we will have many of the things we love and are used to having back in our daily lives soon. They just may look different than they did in the past. Though we all have had different experiences of this situation, we are not alone in walking through this next chapter of life. If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, worry, depression or loneliness, please reach out for help.

Telehealth counseling appointments now available! JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today!


Author: Shannon Hargrave, LMHC

Shannon Hargrave, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Shannon specializes in working with kids, teens, adults, and families. She has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatientresidential treatment center, substance abuse, in home/office outpatient therapy. Shannon holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Shannon specializes in a range of concerns including: depression, self-injury, parenting issues, teen issues, anxiety, anger management, low self-esteem, poor communication skills, substance abuse, parenting and behavior issues.

Volunteer Spotlight: Carla Betts and Jane Cohen

 

JFS Orlando Assistant Director Heather Petrusky with her mom Carla Betts;
Program Coordinator Audrey Cohen with her mom Jane Cohen.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, especially our JFS Orlando mom volunteers! Carla Betts is the mom of JFS Assistant Director Heather Petrusky, and Jane Cohen is the mom of JFS Program Coordinator Audrey Cohen. Both moms found out about volunteering at JFS from their daughters and started volunteering in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry last year.

Carla grew up in Cleveland, but has lived in Florida for the past 40 years. She retired last year after working 30 years in the school district, first as a teacher and then as an administrator. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Michael, and her two daughters, Jessica and Heather. Jane was born and raised in Philadelphia. She moved to attend Rollins College, where she majored in Art History. In her free time she loves to go to art museums, spend time with her two daughters and husband of 41 years, get in the kitchen and cook, as well as gardening and going on bike rides.

One thing Jane loves about volunteering at JFS is meeting her fellow volunteers. “I love meeting all the other volunteers who have all been so nice and generous with their time,” she says. “I always volunteer Thursday mornings and I get to work with Matthew, who I love! We have a lot of fun together.” Something special that has stood out the most to Carla is the gratefulness of the clients. “Giving food to people in need is very rewarding,” she explains. “I enjoy preparing the bags and interacting with the community.” Jane agrees saying “I like being helpful to our community. I love being able to work so closely with the clients. Working in the Pantry you really get to see the difference being made in these people’s lives. Nobody should go hungry. I love being able to give a cart full of groceries to someone in need.”

Carla and Jane see first-hand the value of the emergency food assistance in the Pantry, but they both also see and understand the importance of the other services JFS offers to the community. Jane explains how “JFS helps many people in so many different ways. Not only with the Pantry, but with all of the programs they offer. They will help anyone who is in need.” “JFS does so much for the community,” adds Carla. “They also offer a whole array of services to help people in need, like mental health counseling, family stabilization services, senior transportation assistance and chaplaincy services.”

Although volunteering is an incredible selfless act, both Carla and Jane agree that it is a gift that gives back. “It’s very worthwhile to give back to the community. JFS is a wonderful organization and a pleasure to volunteer at,” says Carla. “Volunteering is the best medicine,” continues Jane. “Being a part of the JFS family and helping their clientele is so rewarding. They are doing incredible work. You get to help the people directly and see that you are making a difference.”

Thank you, Carla and Jane, for being wonderful moms to Heather and Audrey, and now to the JFS family! We’re so glad to have you on the JFS Volunteer Team!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

Life Interrupted: Dealing with what “might have been”

Sometime in the middle of March, life stopped. Students stayed home from school after spring break ended; businesses closed, sending workers to offices in the basement in their homes; plays got cancelled, the NCAA went from the hottest thing to talk about in March to basketball with no fans to, finally, no competition what so ever; restaurants emptied and toilet paper flew off the shelves.

Whether you are a high school senior missing your graduation and wondering what your freshman year in college might look like now that we can’t hug or shake hands, or a senior-senior thinking about retiring, putting off that leave date and wondering when you will have that opportunity—or the finances—to transition from the workforce to leisure, we all have been impacted by this sudden and dramatic life changing event called the pandemic.

Daily we receive newsfeeds telling us about the increasing numbers of sick people and unemployed, those hospitalized and those in line for food. We see the impact on our country and on the world. What we often struggle with, however, is what we DON’T see, the non-events. How do we deal with the missed graduation, the cancelled trip, the lost visit from grandchildren, or the empty Seder table or Easter Egg hunt? We need a process for coping and a structure for learning in order to grow through these losses. Most of us will not lose someone to the virus, thank G-d, but all of us will lose something important during these months of social distancing, business and school closures and the financial downturn.

In order to navigate through these difficult non-event transitions, we need to make them real by naming them. We need to develop the hope that we can get through them to a better place on the other side and believe that growth is possible. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore the process of turning these challenging times into growth opportunities by understanding these non-events, and learning critical coping strategies.

First, we need to take a look at what we are missing and come to a better understanding of what these non-events mean to us. There are all kinds of non-events:

1. In this pandemic shut down, the most common type of non-events tend to be personal. We might become aware that we lost something that we aspired to, hoped for or worked towards. Non-events might include cancelled graduations, trips, or an elective surgery.

2. A second type of non-event, which can interact with the first, is more relational. When we think about cancelled weddings, family visits or reunions, or unattended funerals, we are letting go of relational non-events.

3. Many of us are also dealing with career non-events: a job offer that was retracted, a promotion missed, a retirement postponed, or job search after graduation that disappeared. These non-events are different from the actual event of being laid off or furloughed, which are concrete and clearly understandable. The career opportunities that don’t materialize are much more confusing.

4. Equally unstructured is the loss of routine. We are used to going into the office every day, and now go into our home study; we used to get a Starbucks every morning, and now we use our Keurig; we used to go to yoga on Wednesdays, and now we turn on Zoom. Our loss of routine may seem insignificant, but can be disturbing and lonely, nonetheless.

5. The non-events that leave us feeling hopeless are the hardest to deal with and have the greatest impact on us. We despair when we feel like our lives have changed forever: I’ll never get a job again; I’ll never be able to say good-bye to my classmates; or the restaurant will never re-open. Hopelessness is often in our own mind, but nevertheless, the feeling of despair makes managing the non-event more challenging.

As we acknowledge that our life has clearly been interrupted, how do we cope with these disruptions, and, hopefully, turn them into learning experiences?

1. With a sense of control we tend to feel better, even if we only have control over a small part of the process. When I took control of my routine by getting up and going for a walk first thing in the morning, I felt better. When a friend figured out how to use zoom, she not only felt less isolated, but she realized that she could still be grandma to her grandkids.

2. Managing the social isolation while connecting to others can be one of the most powerful ways of coping. A support system that provides feedback, affirmation, resources and simply a form of connection makes all of this distancing so much easier. We all are finding new and creative ways to connect during this pandemic, like, Zoom meetings and classes, birthday party parades, streaming religious services, FaceTime calls with friends, and YouTube humorous videos.

3. Acknowledging and naming the challenges that you are facing makes a huge difference. I encourage you to reach out to someone, at home or on the phone, and tell them the story of your non-event: talk about what happened (or didn’t happen)—without blame. Who and what are you missing? What do you feel about this change in your life? Share what the non-event meant to you: What are you losing?—privacy, freedom, identity, sense of competence or independence?

4. Next, let yourself grieve. Journaling is a great way to express your grief, in all of its evolving aspects. You might start out with denial (“This pandemic will be no big deal.”). Later, you might try bargaining (“Maybe if I wear a mask I can go shopping with a friend.”). Soon, you might be aware of your sadness (“I’ve lost the ability to earn money.”) Finally, when you face your grief head on and acknowledge what you have lost, you will be able to come to some level of acceptance.

5. By refocusing your energy someplace where you can have some control and impact, you can experience a sense of accomplishment. For instance, you might design your own graduation ritual, plan a Zoom family reunion, or create an art project demonstrating your non-event.

6. Likewise, reshaping allows you to create a new future by dreaming a new way of being. You can take back the things you love about your “past” life and create something for the future that holds those values. For example, you might discover that you loved the part of your server job in the restaurant that included interacting with colleagues, but you now know that you prefer an office job with more stability. Take time to image what that new combination might look like for you.

7. Find self-compassion. Being where you are today is not your fault. There is no shame in being laid off, struggling to manage your children, or wishing you could go to Starbucks. There are lots of people in your same position. Your struggles are normal.

8. Find meaning. You can do this in all sorts of ways: focus on religion or spiritually; bask in moments of joy; give back to others; find your flow; create a gratitude list. Research shows that gratitude not only makes you FEEL better emotionally, but your physiology also changes—all for the better.

9. Learn how to manage your stress, which is always important. Take deep breaths; exercise; carve out worry time and limit your worries to a half hour a day, and write them down; find one thing you can do to move your life forward; vent; listen to music and dance; and even let yourself have some comfort food. Any or all of these techniques will help you manage the stress you are experiencing.

The bottom line: it is the journey not the destination. We might think we have to be some place, but if there is anything that this pandemic has taught me, it is: no, I don’t have to be some place other than where I am right now. This journey may be inconvenient, it may be painful at times, or even scary, but… it is all that we have. The only thing that we can really change is our attitude: to work WITH what is, instead of against it.

It is important to remember two things: we all are doing the best we can with what we have; and, facing our fears allows them to dissipate.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Now might be the best time to explore this question. Grasping our interrupted life and making it into the life we desire is the gift of the season. In Chinese, the same word is used for both crisis and opportunity. Now is your opportunity.

Telehealth counseling appointments now available! JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today!


Author: Dr. Eloise Stiglitz, PhD

Dr. Eloise Stiglitz, PhD is a licensed psychologist. Her passion is helping people through challenging transitions, whether it includes a crisis like a divorce, death, move or career shift, or a personal evolution centered around sexuality, spirituality or disability. She works with seniors, helping them through their difficult times, young adults creating their sense of self, as well as all those in between struggling with the many life challenges that we all face. Her specialties include women’s issues, depression and anxiety, substance abuse and addictions, sexuality, grief and relationship concerns.

Eloise believes that the therapy relationship is a powerful healing tool, empowering people to make the desired changes in their lives. Her eclectic therapy style integrates cognitive-behavior, Neuro-linguistic programming, and solution-oriented interventions with a relational-developmental, client-centered perspective. More importantly, she connects with her clients through intensive and caring listening, truly open-hearted support and a delightful sense of humor.

Volunteer Spotlight: Briggett Marquina

Briggett Marquina, one of JFS Orlando’s newest volunteers.

Between babysitting for Family Stabilization Program (FSP) workshops and volunteering in the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, Briggett Marquina pulls double duty as a JFS Orlando volunteer. When she’s not volunteering, she’s studying Clinical Psychology at UCF to become a child psychologist, going to the gym, or playing with her dog, Saige. Briggett is also an army veteran and served two nine-month deployments to Kuwait. Her selflessness and desire to make a meaningful impact could not be more evident in all that she does.

Briggett first began volunteering with JFS in February 2020 and so far has enjoyed it. “I heard about JFS through my hair dresser. Not only does the staff make you feel welcomed but also the experience here is most definitely worthwhile.” The meaning and value of her volunteer work is clear. When she babysits for FSP workshops, she is giving struggling parents a chance to learn the vital skills they need to stabilize their families. When she volunteers in the Pantry, she is directly giving individuals the food they need to survive.

Whichever program Briggett comes in to help with on any given day, she is giving up her time to help those most in need in our community. She does it, not only because it’s the kind thing to do, but because she understands their situation. “I love knowing that I am giving a hand to those in need. I come from a very humble home with a foreign single mom who doesn’t speak the language and I know first-hand what it’s like to know your children are fed and well taken care of through my wonderful mom’s struggles.” One particularly meaningful moment that has stood out to Briggett from volunteering with JFS was when she was working in the Pantry. “I had the pleasure of speaking to an older Hispanic lady who asked me if I spoke Spanish. When I told her yes, the sense of relief I saw in her was very rewarding.”

Thank you, Briggett, for giving of your time and for being that source of relief for many of the people JFS Orlando serves. We’re so glad to have you on the JFS Volunteer Team!

Interested in helping your community by volunteering with JFS? Several roles are currently available, including helping out in the Pantry and behind-the-scenes office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Audrey.Cohen@JFSorlando.org.

COVID-19 Update: Thursday, March 26, 2020, 4:07 PM

Please note: JFS Orlando is CLOSED to the public until further notice, but our programs and services are still OPERATIONAL.

JFS staff will still be on-duty and managing programs via phone and digital means to work with clients when possible. We understand the situation is extremely fluid and we are monitoring the State’s response and will, of course, follow state recommendations and guidelines.

Below is a list with the operational status for each JFS program and service:

• The Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry will remain open Monday – Thursday 9AM – 4PM. To pick-up food, please call 407-644-7593 to schedule an appointment.

• The Counseling, Growth and Development program has begun telehealth counseling sessions. To schedule a telehealth appointment, please call 407-644-7671.

• The Family Stabilization Program is still operational, but only via phone and digital. If you are a current client of the program or you are interested in applying, please call 407-644-7593 ext. 250 (City of Orlando & Seminole County) or ext. 236 (unincorporated Orange County).

• The Reliable Independent Drivers for the Elderly (RIDE) program is still operational, but only via phone and digital. If you are a current client of the program or you are interested, please call 407-644-7593 ext. 249.

• The Chaplaincy program is still operational, but only via phone. If you are a current client of the program or you are interested, please call 407-644-7593 to connect with our Community Rabbi.

• The Volunteer program is cancelled until further notice.

With the world shutting down around us, JFS Orlando continues to operate. Now more than ever we need your help.