Mentoring Myself: One Year Without Jeff Seinfeld

Welcome to Format Free Fridays at, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions.

Next Wednesday, January 25th, will mark the one-year passing of my friend and mentor Jeff Seinfeld.  Only 63 years old, Jeff suffered a sudden, massive heart attack, leaving in his wake devastated family members, patients, friends and a community of social workers.

Jeff was a world-renowned author, theorist and clinician. I met Jeff in 2001 and had the privilege of being supervised by him for a decade.  Aside from our formal supervision, Jeff was my lifeline; the person to whom I turned when I was at a loss with a client or when I was questioning whether I had pushed the clinical envelop too far in a session.  Jeff taught me to be me.  He encouraged me to facilitate therapy my way, to find my own voice, to question existing paradigms and to develop new ways of affecting change. Professionally speaking, he is responsible for everything good that I do.

Not surprisingly, this last year has been a process for me.  I am nowhere near where I was 12 months ago, thankfully.  Those first few months were often excruciating.  I recall waking up to sunlight similar to today’s light, eager to start my day, only to remember that Jeff was no longer alive, then fight the urge not to roll over, throw a pillow over my head, and hide in bed all day.

Over time, I’d have moments, even days when I would get caught up in the excitement of life, forgetting my mourning and feeling filled with peace.  Then, randomly, I’d find myself stumped clinically, and I’d reach for my phone to call Jeff only to remember that his number, which I still cannot bring myself to delete, no longer leads to him. Over time, the devastation would give way to sadness and more recently I smiled thinking Jeff would likely smack my head if he knew that I still hadn’t deleted his number from my phone.  “Have you learned nothing from me about Object Relations?”

I have, Jeff.  I’ve learned that I can stand on my own.  And although I can’t call you anymore, I have your books, your thoughts, and most importantly, the memory of our discussions.  And sometimes I can’t remember which were your thoughts and which were mine.  It’s like we’ve morphed into one voice, which is always with me, guiding me; mentoring me.