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New York City Metro Area

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The New York Times (October 29, 2019: For Many Widows, the Hardest Part Is Mealtime

“It’s almost like the sixth stage of grief is cooking alone,” said Jill Cohen, a grief counselor in New York, referring to the now-disputed theory of the Five Stages of Grief, developed by the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Bereavement counselors said that only in the last decade have academics and nonprofit groups begun directly addressing the relationship between grieving and food. At meals hosted by The Dinner Party, an organization that has expanded in more than 100 cities worldwide since its founding in 2014, people in their 20s or 30s who have lost someone meet regularly to share. Ms. Cohen said many of her patients bring up eating issues in therapy.

New York Magazine (September 27, 2019): 18 Meaningful Condolence Gifts for Grieving Friends

Sometimes the best gift you can give is help with daily tasks that a grieving person isn’t able to handle at the moment. “Mourners have what we call the ‘lethargy of grief’ for months and months after loss,” says Wolfelt. “They don’t have the energy to clean the house or cook a meal.” It might not be something a friend comes out and asks for, but experts agree it’s something they’ll appreciate. “No one likes to ask for help and most times when they’re grieving they’re in a pretty big fog,” says Cohen. You can offer to clean, babysit, or cook; or treat them to a professional cleaning service for a day.

Huff Post Life - Parenting (August 2, 2019): Here's How to Help Your Child Say Goodbye To A Loved One At A Funeral

Experts share some tips to support children who want to participate in the memorial service for a late parent, relative or friend.

If your child wants to participate, always offer to stand beside them at the podium to help put them at ease, said Jill S. Cohen, a New York City family grief counselor.

“Be right there in case they blank out and can’t get through the reading of the eulogy or start to cry,” she said. “You want someone to be there to help calm the situation and help it to go more smoothly.”

In general, it’s smart to designate one adult as your child’s go-to at the funeral.

“That person should sit with them, help them with their questions and help them process all of the goings-on, because others there will be so busy and grieving that they may not be able to tend to the children,” Cohen said.

Bravo (May 29,2019): Dorinda Medley Says “There Are No Rules or Guidelines” for Bethenny Frankel Grieving Dennis Shields

New York City-based family grief counselor Jill Cohen explained to Personal Space why she thinks people get judgmental about the amount of time someone spends grieving a partner who has passed.

"Sometimes people feel they have to make a comment or a judgement about anything and everything, because that is part of their nature," she said. "Sometimes, people feel uncomfortable in the presence of one who appears to be saddened and grieving, and they don't know how to interact, so they go ahead and throw a judgment that the other person's behavior and grief time may be wrong. Some people may secretly feel guilty if they have had a partner who had died, and they moved forward more smoothly and quickly than the other person. Guilt. Maybe I did not grieve right? Maybe I didn't let my grief out? Maybe people think I didn't mourn well enough?"

Cohen added when people themselves have never experienced the death of a loved one they can't even begin to contemplate what it feels like, how long it takes, or how to experience grief. "So a hasty judgment seems the only way and the easiest way to think about it and dismiss it. If a person is very close to the person who is grieving and they feel unable to help her or him, they feel helpless themselves, they may feel inclined to judge that the person's grief is too much, too long, too intense, and that they are incapable of being helped and moving forward."

New York Magazine (May 22, 2019): The 16 Best Books About Dealing With Grief, According to Psychologists

In reference to the book Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers: How to Cope With Losing Someone You Love, “The author explains to teens what to expect from the loss of a loved one and how to cope, grieve, and live through and with this grief,” says Cohen. Helbert describes it this way: “Just what it says. Straight talk about death when any loved one or relative has died.” This straightforward and practical text covers topics ranging from “Self-Inflicted Death” to “Crying” while exploring the tough questions teens may have, she says.

Bustle (May 8, 2019): What To Say To A Friend Who’s Having A Hard Time, According To Crisis Counselors

Grief counselor Jill Cohen told Prevention in 2017 that offering to do something concrete, rather than asking "what can I do," is a way to help that's both significant and practical — without making the person think of anything for you to do. Is their struggle causing disruption in their lives in ways that you can identify and fix? Whether it's picking them up for work, helping with their kids, making them food, cleaning their house, or some other practical help, there's no limit to what can be helpful. But it's important to ask first, and to respect their boundaries if they say no.

Bravo (March 19, 2019): The Phenomenon of Texting a Loved One After

They Have Died Is Real

Grief counselor Jill Cohen explained to Personal Space why that is. She said that “this phenomenon of texting loved ones after they have died is a real one.”

“It is, in a sense, a technology upgrade of the task of writing a letter to a deceased loved one,” she said. “The texting ritual can be seen as a continuation of a routine that the surviving person had with the deceased, so a way to keep up the relationship in a way that makes their loved one seem or feel present to them. It is also an expression of disbelief, as if to suggest that the person has not really died, which is a normal thought that comes with the experience of the death when it is a surprise and an unexpected one.” Cohen said that while it feels helpful in the moment, the urge does eventually go away. “As time goes in and reality sinks in, the hope is that the constant texting or checking in with the deceased person will subside,” she explained.

Lifehacker (February 27,2019): How to Give Someone Really, Really Bad News

Don’t break the news in a voicemail

Say you’re not able to see them in person. You call instead and it goes unanswered. Should you leave a message explaining the events? No, according to Cohen. You can’t guarantee they’re in a position to receive bad news (say they’re on the road. You wouldn’t want them to panic).

Instead, just state that it’s bad news and find an available time to speak. “‘I have some news that will probably be distressing to you,’” she suggested. “Or ‘I have some bad news that I, unfortunately, have to break to you, when it’s okay to talk.’”

Remain clear

On Twitter, Alderman suggested starting the conversation with something like, “‘I’ve got some really sad news I’m afraid.’” Then, make it 100 percent clear who or what is involved. “When people hear that there’s bad news coming they not even really listening or absorbing it,” Cohen added. “They’re sort of figuring this all out before you say it.”

 

Bravo (December 12, 2018): Jax Taylor Hasn't Spoken to His Mom Since His Dad's Funeral-- Grief Counselors Explain Why This Happens

Grief counselor Jill Cohen tells Personal Space that there are so many reasons why families can be torn apart after the death of a loved one in the family.

"One is guilt — guilt about how things were handled or not handled by family members. Guilt about who did more of the help or less of the help if a loved one was sick for a long time. Also, everyone has different styles of grieving and of coping," she adds. "Family members do not understand each other's ways so they form their own impressions of how a parent or sibling is reacting (looks like she didn't really care; looks like he thinks he was more present and more important during the sickness or death; he or she is trying to control the situation). Really, you can't know about each other simply by trying to read their emotions."

Cohen adds that big decisions can tear families apart: "Are we selling the house, moving closer to the other family members? Whose responsibility is it to help the remaining family members if they need help and support? When do we clear out the material items? These can for sure tear a family apart. Money. It is often said that 'money is the root of all evil' for a good reason. Money issues arise immediately upon the death of a family member and how they are handled can divide people irreparably."

Cohen says that people often take on a different character after the death of a loved one and that can be confusing to the others as well. "Why is she all of a sudden a control freak? Why is he acting like he was more important than the others in the life of the deceased? Why is he/she all of a sudden acting like a crazy person?"

Bravo (November 2, 2018): Here's Why People Need To Be Taken Seriously When Grieving The Death Of A Pet

Losing a pet can be as bad as any other loss, including losing humans, Jill S. Cohen, a family grief counselor in New York City, told Personal Space.

"We can feel very, very intense grief when a beloved pet dies. A pet is a family member. When any beloved family member dies, those who love him or her grieve. One can grieve as much or even more over the death of a pet as that of a human," Cohen explained.

Why is that?

"With humans, the relationships can be complicated. With pets, they are simple and always satisfying," Cohen said. "There is an unconditional love that a pet provides, where often a human relationship does not necessarily provide that. Also, a pet is reliable and has provided the security and stability through the owner's life which often transcends other relationships. Children may leave home, a spouse may leave or be absent for a period of time. Parents may die. Friendships may drift.

But the pet is always there — a source of comfort, a source of continuity in life, of constant companionship, a way for the owner to show love to a living being. A pet also provides a sense of routine for its owner. This may give the owner some consistency in life — feeding, walking, caring for the dog, tending to the pet's needs. The bond between a human and a pet can sometimes be like none other."

There is often a feeling of loneliness that follows after a furry friend dies.

Bravo (September 20, 2018): Redirecting Grief Into Volunteer Work (like Bethenny Frankel) Can Be Life Changing

Personal Space spoke with New York based grief counselor Jill Cohen, who applauded Bethenny's efforts to help others to help heal herself. But, remember to care for yourself, she adds. Cohen has specialized in bereavement counseling for adults and children, and has worked with hundreds of children at Comfort Zone Camp, the nation’s largest bereavement camp for children. 

How can volunteering or doing charity work help a person through grief?

"It can give the griever a sense of fulfillment, of purpose. Even a sense of 'giving back to others' if the grieving person experienced much help and support from others during the illness or circumstances which preceded the death of his or her loved one," Cohen says. "It may be considered a way of acknowledging how important was the help that his or her family received either before a death, during, or right afterwards. It is a way of showing that they appreciated the help so much that they were inspired to do it for others, too. A true way of putting that gratefulness into motion, or action. This can help people find some fulfillment in the time of grief, as long as it does not become the focus of life in a dominant way."

Bravo (July 10, 2018): Life After Bobby: What it's like Dating After a Loss Like Jill Zarin's

Dating after the loss of a husband or wife can be a confusing time. Personal Space spoke with New York-based family grief counselor Jill S. Cohen, who explained a bit about how Jill may be feeling.

“Someone told me once — and it flipped a switch in my thinking — she was a mother who lost her husband and her child was not happy the mom had a boyfriend soon after. And the mom had really loved her husband, the mom said to me ‘I tell my daughter they can never have another father, but I can have another husband.’ The mom said I can love another man, there’s not just one love for every person,” Cohen says. “The woman who lost her husband didn’t lose the only one person who could ever be a great love. Even an extraordinary relationship where you as a couple feel like one person, after a loss, you can love a second person, and it does not negate the first person.”

Prevention Magazine (June 16, 2017): 6 Better Things To Say To A Struggling Friend Than 'Let Me Know If I Can Do Anything.'

Can I pick up groceries for you tonight? Can we have coffee on Thursday when things settle down? Can I call you on Monday to check in? These types of questions draw out a response that gives you a gauge for how the person is feeling, says Jill Cohen, a New York City-based grief counselor. "They might say, 'You know what, I never would have thought to pick up the phone on Monday, but I'll be lonely after my family leaves after the funeral on Sunday, so that would be great.'”

While I have been quoted in the press, I have also been quoted in many other places!

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Quotable

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My Wellbeing (September 19, 2019): How To Talk To Someone About Therapy

MWB specialist Jill Cohen is a grief counselor and works with people who have experienced the death of a loved one. She notes that very often these are people whom have not previously had the need or desire for therapy. So, seeking help may not even be on their "radar" as a "thing" to consider doing. Some thoughts on what to say:

“I know you're going through a really rough time, understandably, and grieving is sad and can be lonely. You might think you are losing your mind sometimes, when you realize that your life that you had before your loss is not anything like your life now. I Think it might be helpful for you to have a safe place and a person with whom you can share some of your feelings, including anger, jealousy, guilt - that you might not want to tell others about. And a way to express your sadness with someone who can understand you and help you stay on track, and cope better. A professional can give you some tools to manage your life while grieving and to move forward to your "new normal." It's not a bad thing to seek help. In the long run, you'll probably be better off. It doesn't mean you are helpless, it just gives you a chance to get some extra support from someone who really cares and wants to help your grief."

another option:

“It's not embarrassing or shameful to want help with your grief. Nobody has ever taught you how to experience a loss like this before, and now you have to do it. But you don't have to do it alone. The feeling of grief can make you feel different from everyone else who doesn't "get it". That's why it's helpful to talk to someone who can "normalize" your grief and validate your experience. Everything changes after a death, relationships, family dynamics, routines, work, school, etc. and I think it would really be helpful for you to have some support going through this.” - Jill Cohen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heart In Diamond (September 12, 2019): 4 BEREAVEMENT COUNSELORS DISCUSS DIFFERENT TYPES OF GRIEF

The first question on our minds we wanted answers to, was “What is the difference between normal grief and complicated grief?” Jill Cohen explains:

“Grief is an absolutely normal and innate response to a painful event such as the death of a loved one or special person. That’s a given. However, when there is a passage of time and the griever is still finding it difficult to move forward and resume his or her normal life, this is the sign of something more problematic. This would be considered a complicated grief.

“But we can’t be too hasty to call a grief complicated. Even normal grief is not one single emotion or feeling. It is a way of being — and it shows up physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally in many shapes and forms. Grief is unique to everyone. How we grieve, for how long we intensely and actively grieve and what it looks like and what it affects, differs from one person to another.”

She also went on to explain that most grief includes some of the following:

  • Tears

  • Crying

  • Too little or too much sleep

  • Lethargy

  • Eating too much or too little

  • Being less socially engaged with others

  • Lack of concentration

  • Questioning one’s own faith and belief system

  • Lots of feelings – anger, guilt, loneliness, depression, sadness, loneliness, fear with occasionally experiencing and acknowledging moments of happiness

Cohen also says that “If these usual responses to grief don’t fade or lessen over time and begin to interrupt their ability to lead their own lives and function, they may be experiencing complicated grief.”

 

Samada (May 8, 2018): 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Facing Death

When you’re faced with the knowledge that the end of your life is near, avoidance or denial is such a natural impulse that it seems absurd to be even be starting an article with this sentence. Of course no one wants to prepare for their own death, at least initially. And no one needs to be told that facing mortality is likely to trigger a dramatic self-reckoning, or at least, some rumination. Jill Cohen, a New York-based grief counselor, suggests that asking  certain questions can potentially help people who are dying do a final accounting as well as set priorities for how they want to spend the time they have left.

Samada (April 20, 2018): Dos and Don’ts of Talking to Someone Who is Seriously Ill

It’s hard to know in advance whether your best friend with breast cancer will want to discuss the nitty-gritty of her treatment or be distracted from it entirely, says Jill Cohen, a New York-based counselor specializing in grief. So rather than guess, follow her lead.

If she mentions a hopeful test result, ask her if she’d like to share more. But if she asks about work, fill her in on your funny coworker’s latest antics. “People like an opportunity to laugh and to hear what’s going on in the outside world,” says Cohen. They might be grateful for a chance to hear what’s happening in your life.

Don’t make them discuss their prognosis

Talking through potential outcomes—especially the risk of death—can be a painful conversation for any person with a serious illness. And rehashing this information with every visitor or friend can bring it front and center again and again, says Cohen.

It’s best to avoid questions about things like the odds of recovery, potential long-term limitations, or how many treatments or procedures loom on the horizon. Again, follow your loved one’s lead: If she wants to talk through her frustration about medication side effects or her fear of the future, let her talk. But don’t push or probe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samada (April 24, 2018): How to Find a Grief Counselor

Some people might mistakenly assume that a grief counselor is mostly focused on helping people “bounce back” from a loss, but real resolution and healing actually happens when you can carry the memory of your loved one without anguish, says Jill Cohen, a New York-based grief counselor. (Related: What’s the Difference Between Grief and Depression?)

“We try to find ways to incorporate him or her into your ongoing life, so the person isn’t really gone forever,” she says.  That may mean anything from running a 5K race to raise research funds for the cancer that claimed your mom’s life to starting a new tradition of eating your granddad’s favorite foods on his birthday.

For some, being able to memorialize your loved one may mean first working on being able to accept the death and resuming normal daily routines. Just as no two people’s grief is exactly alike, what they need from a counselor isn’t identical, Cohen says.

 

 

Samada (March 12, 2018): How Long Does Grief Last?

You might hear people talk about moving through the stages of grief, as if mourning were perfectly linear and you could wake each morning knowing that you wouldn’t have to retread the emotions of the day before. But in reality, grief is more of a roller coaster or pendulum than a linear progression.

When a researcher at the University of Akron tracked the daily moods of recent widows for three months, she found that most emotions fluctuated wildly. A widow might feel despondent one day, buoyant the next; distracted and anxious one morning, optimistic and focused that same afternoon. But over time, the intensity of those fluctuations calmed, until the person returned to a more stable emotional state.

“The trajectory is never a straight line of phases or stages, but closer to oscillating waves,” says Cohen. Even if you’ve felt closure for months, certain milestones, such as the loved one’s birthday, the anniversary of the death, or important holidays, may act as a catalyst to throw you back into your grief.