NYU Silver’s Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Y.C. Ho/Helen & Michael Chiang Foundation to provide free bereavement training to 100 social workers at New York City social services agencies, giving priority to those that are serving communities of color and marginalized populations hit hardest by COVID-19.
“With the unprecedented number of deaths from COVID in New York City, social services agencies will be caring for bereaved individuals and families for many years to come,” said Zelda Foster Studies Program Director and Clinical Professor Dr. Susan Gerbino. “The social workers in our Zelda community report that it has been all hands on deck trying to manage the wave of bereaved people at their hospitals, nursing homes, oncology clinics, and hospices. While most of them have training in bereavement, this is not the case for most social workers in community-based social services organizations.”
To meet that need, the Zelda Foster Studies program, which has long history of providing bereavement training to its community, will develop and deliver a 15-hour training that includes an overview of bereavement theory for adults and children, signs of prolonged grief disorder, red flags for bereaved children, evidence-based interventions, and special considerations for people experiencing COVID bereavement. The curriculum is being developed by Dr. Gerbino with Zelda Foster Studies MSW and Leadership Mentor and NYU Silver Adjunct Lecturer Dr. Abigail Nathanson, and MSW Mentor Nancy Cincotta, LCSW. It will be delivered by the latter two via Zoom in five, three-hour modules to social work employees at NYU Silver’s Field learning sites in New York City, which include schools, mental health clinics, agencies that serve people who are undomiciled, substance abuse agencies, and a wide range of other social services settings.
Dr. Gerbino noted that for every person that dies of COVID, it is estimated that nine close family members are affected, with communities of color losing a disproportionate number of loved ones. “Using that formula and reported deaths to date,” she said, “there are more than 250,000 COVID mourners in New York City alone. They have special needs, as Wendy G. Lichtenthal and colleagues detailed, due to the suddenness of the death; forced separation during their loved ones’ final days; loss of physical touch; having to say goodbye virtually; the absence of traditional mourning rituals, and grieving in isolation.”
In co-developing the curriculum, Dr. Gerbino is drawing on her experience since the early days of the pandemic as the volunteer facilitator of a weekly COVID bereavement group, as well as her extensive knowledge providing bereavement services post September 11 and during the AIDS epidemic. “This training will make a difference in the lives of bereaved New Yorkers both during this pandemic and beyond,” she said. “I am grateful to the Ho/Chiang Foundation funding this important and timely initiative.”