Licensed psychologist Ruth Markowitz, MA, LP, supports grieving husbands and wives at Our Lady of Peace (OLP). Utilizing almost 40 years of counseling experience with trauma, anxiety, and other issues her clients face, she helps OLP spouses navigate through grief and loss. Ruth does this work as a volunteer.
Ruth began volunteering at OLP after completing training sparked by the death a long-time client. “When he told me he was terminally ill, I collapsed,” she said. “A year later when a new client came in and told me this man had died, I wailed.” This led me to realize that I needed to learn how to deal with clients who I was attached to because there is a difference in what I can offer and how I can be with people who I am with professionally versus personally.”
This realization led Ruth to the Metta Institute in San Francisco where she studied under founder Frank Ostaseski, author of Five Invitations – Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully. “I learned from Frank and other great teachers, including someone who did end-of-life work at NASA. They eventually told me that if I was truly going to learn about end-of-life, I had to work in hospice. That’s when I found Our Lady of Peace.”
Our Lady of Peace welcomed Ruth as a volunteer and has greatly benefited from her service. She has gone from delivering meals to visiting with patients and families to leading seminars and workshop. But the work Ruth loves most are her support groups for men and women whose spouses have died. “It’s a sacred space that is pure and real, and I’m honored to be able to step inside it with grieving spouses to help them metabolize what has happened.”
There is a great need for spousal grief support, and Ruth says it’s important to point out the difference between sudden loss and chronic long-term loss because it’s profound. “When a husband or wife dies suddenly, the spouse who is left behind needs to talk within a support group about the shock of what they’ve experienced. They need to learn self-soothing techniques and work through shame and regret before the grieving process can begin.”
Ruth believes that people are committed to these groups because it’s sacred time for them, where they can talk about things family and friends don’t like to hear. She says, “They speak the unspeakable. Nothing seems purer to me than grief at end of life. Speaking in a vulnerable space is not easy, and meeting via Zoom during the pandemic made it harder. “When we meet in person, group members befriend each other, which is helpful for rebuilding community, after the loss of a spouse.”
These friendships sometimes lead to love. “One couple met in my group and got married,” says Ruth. “When members re-partner or re-marry, they still come to group meetings to honor the loss of their previous spouse. It’s good for people to see that people move on, it’s okay, and it’s not something to avoid talking about.”
Ruth says she absolutely loves working within her spouse grief group, and feels she brings some valuable new perspectives and therapies beyond her training as a psychologist. As a Jewish woman, she brings helpful rituals of mourning. And from her knowledge of Buddhism, she uses meditation to help people stay awake to the present moment, to learn how to ground and to be present in their bodies. She adds, “To me there is incredible beauty in this work.”
In an article designated to honor Ruth’s volunteer service at OLP, she led us to share information that would be helpful for people who have lost a spouse. She wants people to know the value of having a sacred space for sharing pain of loss freely and receiving support from others who empathize it. This is the outstanding dedication of Ruth Markowitz, and her selfless commitment to serve. Thank you, Ruth, for all you do for individuals and families at
Our Lady of Peace.