We are still reliving the memories from the wonderful evening in which we commemorated Kara’s 40th Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser! From the exciting wine pull and raffle packages, spirited live and fund-a-need auctions, Sheryl Sandberg’s poignant and heartfelt talk, and music to dance the night away, it truly was an evening for the books! We want to thank everyone who supported this event through sponsorships, ticket sales, and in-kind donations. We especially would like to thank Sheryl Sandberg for sharing herself and story with us in a very real and honest way. With the support of each of you that evening, over $335,000 was raised in support of Kara’s mission – our most successful fundraiser yet! I can’t say enough just how much I appreciate each and every one of you for your commitment to Kara! If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our Facebook page for pictures of the evening!
In this month’s newsletter, we are excited to highlight Paul Reasenberg, a volunteer who has been giving of his time to Kara for over 21 years! We also share details upcoming groups at Kara, as well as our Volunteer Reunion BBQ taking place on June 10th in honor of all who have been a part of the Kara volunteer community. Read on for more details and how to get involved!
Thank you for all that you do for Kara and for the bereaved in our community.
With much gratitude and admiration,
Kara Spotlight: Paul Reasenberg
For our Kara Spotlight, we highlight individuals from within our Kara community. This month, we highlight Paul Reasenberg. Paul has been volunteering as a peer counselor at Kara for 21 years – over half of the agency’s existence! When asked about his time at Kara, Paul said, “I guess I keep doing this for two reasons. First, I want to give back to the community for the support I originally received at Kara. Or more accurately, ‘give forward’, and give freely. Secondly, I now find that I want to keep open and alive the part of me that I discovered through loss. My loss changed me, it opened my perspective.”
Who is Paul Reasenberg?
Before retiring I was a research seismologist at the US Geological Survey. I analyzed earthquake data to assess the hazard from large earthquakes in the Bay Area, and to search for patterns among very small earthquakes worldwide that might lead to prediction. The tools for this research center on math, statistics and computer modeling. Much of my time was spent alone at a computer.
In what way(s) has your professional background impacted your volunteer work at Kara?
I’ve worked with many high-functioning professionals, executives, engineers who’ve suffered a loss, and who find themselves terribly uncomfortable with their intense emotions but afraid to express them. One of my clients put it this way: “If I allow these feelings to come up it’ll be a slippery slope and I’m afraid of where that might lead.” I try to normalize a client’s experience without diminishing or generalizing it. I try to help clients find words and metaphors they find useful for getting a footing on their slippery slope. Some clients feel it’s important that they and I have had similar losses (spouse) or that we have similar professional backgrounds. These similarities may help give a client permission to open up. When I received peer counseling at Kara, I’m sure these factors helped me build trust in my counselor.
How did you get involved in Kara?
My wife had advanced breast cancer and was receiving hospice care. I went to see a shrink. He admitted that he didn’t know very much about grief, but could prescribe Prozac if I wanted it. Hmm. Then, a close friend of ours, who had been involved with Kara in its early years, suggested I call. My peer counselor was well matched to me, a scientist at Stanford whose wife had died from breast cancer 20 years earlier. He was a good listener, a sage guide an enormous support. The following year I enrolled in the training program at Kara to become a peer counselor.
My loss changed me, it opened my perspective. I began to notice old people on the sidewalk, especially old couples. I became more aware of my own mortality. Now I find that accompanying others through their grief helps me keep my own perspective wide, my heart open.
In your opinion, what makes it different yet universal at the same time?
I have a fairly broad definition of grief, which I’ve developed after many years volunteering at Kara. I’d now say grief is whatever the client is struggling with after a loss. Universal experiences of sadness, loneliness, confusion, regrets, of course. But also sometimes anger, or exhaustion and relief (after a prolonged period of caregiving), or family animosity (perhaps over money issues or change in the family architecture). Old issues can come up. Every situation is different. That’s why there’s no formulaic “fix”. Just compassionate listening.
Through your time with Kara, what is something you have learned from the agency?
What I’ve learned from peer counseling is that with some clients, especially men, their instinct is often to try to “get on top of their grief” and control it — successful approaches they’ve developed in their professions to solve problems. Actually, sometimes that’s my instinct, too. But I’ve learned from peer counseling that just attentive listening, without trying to fix anything, can be most helpful.
I’ve also learned from the agency as a whole. A sort of mantra at Kara is that peer counselors are simply peers. Not therapists, not social workers. And that grief isn’t a disorder; it’s a universal emotional experience. So it doesn’t need to be treated or fixed, just witnessed. In this spirit, we aim to listen to our clients and accompany them through their grief. I love this concept, although it’s sometimes easier to state than to do. Organizationally, Kara has a wonderful “bottom-up” structure: the focus is on the clients and volunteers. Everyone from the executive director to the volunteers to the staff work at our Palo Alto location. Many of the volunteers and staff are former Kara clients; that keeps it very real. I’m committed to the openness and honesty that define Kara, and to the supportive relationships I have made there.
Many find it helpful to meet with others who have experienced a similar loss. These groups, facilitated by our trained volunteers, offer an opportunity to share experiences in a safe, supportive environment. Kara offers regularly scheduled ongoing drop-in groups for adults throughout the year.
General Drop-In Group:
1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month from 7:00 – 8:30 pm
General Drop-In Group:
2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Men’s Drop-In Group:*
4th Tuesday of the month from 7:00-8:30 pm
*Next Men’s Drop-In Group: May 23 at 7:00 pm
Visit our calendar to get the full dates for our Drop-In groups.
Grief Groups for Families: Sudden Loss Group
Kara’s Youth and Family program currently has openings in its sudden loss peer support groups for families. Children who have experienced the death of a parent and adults who have experienced the death of a spouse or partner through sudden loss are able to meet twice a month in a safe and supportive environment. Children meet together to process their grief through a range of activities, while parents meet together to share their experiences around their own grief and parenting issues.
An initial interview is required before enrolling in the group. Although no fee is required for participating in this group, regular donations are suggested and appreciated. For more information, call us at 650-321-5272 or submit our online form.
40th Anniversary Volunteer Reunion BBQ!
On Saturday, June 10th, we are hosting a Volunteer Reunion BBQ for our wonderful community of Kara volunteers! As we witnessed at the 40th Anniversary celebration, we have volunteers from early Kara’s existence still active and offering their time and support to us – and we couldn’t be more grateful! So this fun and special afternoon is for all of you!
If you have been a part of the Kara volunteer community, we want you to join us! Please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can keep in touch with upcoming news about the event and send the official invitation. Thank you and we can’t wait to share this celebratory afternoon with all of you!
Next Men’s Group: Beginning July 2017
The group is designed for men who have recently had a significant person in their life die. The Men’s Group is offered twice a year and meets for 12 weekly sessions – typically 7:00 – 8:30 pm on Thursday evenings. The group provides a safe and a supportive environment for men to share their experiences and feelings as well as learn about the grieving process.
An initial interview is required before enrolling in the group. Group will meet at the Palo Alto office location. Although no fee is required for participating in this group, regular donations are suggested and appreciated. Please call us at 650-321-5272 for more information.
There are many ways to support Kara year-round. Consider shopping programs such as AmazonSmile, iGive, and eScrip. If you shop in person at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, be sure to mention Kara at checkout and Kepler’s will make a donation back to Kara.
Also, coming up on May 16, 2017 visit ALEX AND ANI at the Stanford Shopping Center from 5:00 – 8:00 pm for a chance to give back to Kara. During this in-store event, ALEX AND ANI | CHARITY BY DESIGN will combine building awareness of the importance of grief support with supporting a cause close to all our hearts. During the evening, 15% of all sales will be donated back to Kara. Come, learn, and support Kara with ALEX AND ANI!
PARTNER & ADVOCACY CORNER
We are GRATEFUL for YOU!
A very special thank you this month goes out to the Adobe Foundation, Palo Alto Community Fund, and Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund for their continued generosity and financial support. Additionally, we want to thank all of our wonderful 40th Anniversary Celebration in-kind donors who made various contributions from wines to merchandise to certificates for experiences around the Bay. All of this helped make our commemorative evening unforgettable! Their commitment and partnerships and make a real difference in the lives of children, families, and adults in our community working with their grief and we couldn’t continue this work without you. THANK YOU!