Before the coronavirus pandemic, Michael and his wife Pamela already struggled with health issues while raising six children and two grandkids. Michael has lymphedema, swelling in his tissues that makes walking difficult, so he was unable to continue working as a security guard. Pamela faced complications from colitis, an inflammation of the colon that claimed her life this past May. Grief was quickly compounded by the economic uncertainty that’s worsened during the pandemic.
For Michael, the loss of his beloved wife of 20 years meant the loss of her income and bills piling up while he was deeply grieving.
“Some days are so hard. I miss Pamela,” Michael says. “She had managed all of the bills and when she died, I didn’t know how to cope.”
Overwhelmed, Michael fell behind on his rent and worried about feeding his children. He found much-needed assistance at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, a UJA-Federation partner.
“I deeply appreciate all that the Jewish Board did to help me and my family,” Michael says. “They dropped off bags of groceries, helped with rent and clothes and toys for the kids.”
Like many families during the pandemic, Michael’s children learned remotely from home. Jewish Board staff played a critical role as a liaison with the children’s school and helped ensure the children received speech and occupational therapy.
His case manager became a strong advocate for Michael and coached him in how to arrange payment plans for his outstanding bills. “She was very kind and my care coordinator also was a big support with the grieving process,” he notes.
He recalls the care coordinator’s words as a touchstone he still relies on every day.
“She told me that grieving doesn’t have a time limit and I can grieve as long as I need to,” he says. “She said to think about my children and grandkids and be strong for them.”
Some days it’s hard and he doesn’t want to get out of bed, Michael admits. But he remembers the guidance he received.
“I tell myself my kids are a blessing. I remember to appreciate what I do have. I tell myself, ‘Get up and take care of your children.’ It’s become my mantra.”