By Linda Haase
We’re not supposed to tell secrets, but Fran Rosenheck just can’t help herself. This is news that really needs to be shared.
“It’s the best-kept secret in Boca Raton,” says Rosenheck, referring to the Faulk Center for Counseling, which offers a variety of free and low-cost programs for counseling, therapy and support.
And the 79-year-old Boca Raton resident should know. She’s been volunteering there for the past 21 years.
“We really do a good service for the community. It’s a wonderful place with wonderful people,” says Rosenheck, who has a bachelor’s in psychology from Queens College and a master’s in social work from Adelphi University in New York.
“I am proud of the work we do providing services for those who otherwise could not afford mental health services.”
Rosenheck, who retired from the Nassau County Department of Social Services on Long Island before moving to Boca Raton with her husband, David, in 1996, has helped with myriad support groups at the center — everything from Alzheimer’s to caregivers. She even completed an internship there — which she used to ultimately become a Florida-licensed clinical social worker.
These days, she facilitates a weekly support group at the center — along with other volunteers — for widows and widowers. The Wednesday group, Moving Forward for Widows and Widowers, deals with grief and loss, living alone, dating, friendships and new identities.
“This is the next step after initial bereavement. They are coping with living alone, meeting new people, and making a new life. Things have changed and they need to reinvent themselves. The members bond and help each other move forward and move on,” says Rosenheck, who has three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. “They are there to console each other during those first anniversaries, when they need help during a hurricane — or just to go out for a meal.”
The members share good times as well as sad ones.
“Being alone after many years of marriage and losing a loved one is very, very difficult. The people in the group have similar feelings and problems, they understand what the others have been through. There is some commonality,” she explains. “They feel safe here and comfortable talking about things they might not want to talk about with friends or family. What one person needs to talk about is often what others have been thinking about or need to talk about.”
Helping them move forward makes Rosenheck smile.
“It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see that happening,” she says. “But it is bittersweet. The group is designed to help people move forward and it works, but when they leave we miss them. It is an accomplishment but feels like a bit of a loss.”
The Faulk Center is grateful for Rosenheck’s unwavering support.
“Fran is a very special warm and caring support group leader with compassion for the clients she meets in helping them to move forward after the loss of a spouse,” says Lois A. Weisman, Faulk Center president.
When Rosenheck is not volunteering, you can find her at the movies or the theater, reading a book, delighting in nature or enjoying the views from her Intracoastal residence.
If You Go
What: Moving Forward for Widows and Widowers support group
When: 1-2:30 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: Faulk Center for Counseling, 22455 Boca Rio Road, Boca Raton
Cost: $5 each session or $100 for unlimited sessions for the year. No appointment necessary.