After Years of Being Ignored, Unheard Bereaved Grandparents Get a Voice

A support group for bereaved grandparents is slowly growing in Kfar Sava.

The voices of bereaved grandparents are rarely heard. Support groups are available for widows, orphans, bereaved brothers and girlfriends, but the grandparents are usually forgotten. "The public isn't aware of the grandparents," says Abraham Mahrouk. "People don't understand we suffer twice - both for losing our grandchildren and having to watch our children fade before our eyes."

Mahrouk, 72, speaks from bitter experience, after losing his grandson Aharon 'Roi' Roth in 2008. "He was very close to us and loved spending time with us," says Mahrouk. After driving Roi to the bus station after spending time together one Sabbath, Mahrouk recalls receiving a text message from Roi that later acquired a new meaning: "I'm on the bus. Thank you for everything."

Mahrouk, Mercaz Harav Yeshiva
Itzik Ben-Malki

"It's as if he was saying goodbye to us, before being murdered on the steps of his Yeshiva for being a Jew," says Roi's grandmother, Nili Mahrouk, aged 71. Roi was gunned down in a shooting attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in 2008, aged 18. "I said he was too good a kid for our world, and I'm filled with regret and I carry the guilt to this day," Nili says. "He's my grandson. We had eight grandchildren. In fact, we still have eight grandchildren. One of them is dead."

For Hani Segev, 78, losing her 28-year-old grandson Nimrod Segev in the Second Lebanon War was not her first bereavement experience. "I'm not one of those to cry or look for pity," she said, "but being an army widow I thought it was only natural to approach the Defense Ministry for help. I told the social worker there I needed a support group, and she said no one thought about offering one for grandparents."

In the last few months, a support group for bereaved grandparents slowly began to come together in Kfar Sava. The meetings are small scale, with the aim of building up a wider forum meeting once a week to talk about the loss of a grandchild or grandchildren.

"When you're in that age in which you anyway suffer losses and you suffer a sudden loss and crisis, it can get into a pretty difficult mental state," said Galia Segev Rosenberg, a social worker at the Kfar Sava municipality and coordinator for the group. "We must allow [for] the processing of the grief in a facilitated way, which can maybe bring some comfort."

Segev Rosenberg, Nimrod's aunt, decided to research the issue of grandparents' bereavement for her master's thesis at Tel Aviv University: "After that," Segev said, "I understood more with every passing day we need to do something and legitimize the grandparents as part of the nuclear family." She herself reattached her maiden name to her last name after Nimrod was killed. "Maybe later we'll start a group for aunts, too," she added.