I‘d like to take a few moments to share with you how the Center for Grieving Children has been such an important part of my life for the past ten years. While my involvement has morphed with each passing year, the Center’s incredible impact on me has only grown.
In early 2012, I became a participant in the Center’s young adult bereavement peer support group after my grandmother died from Alzheimer’s. I had been living with, and taking care of her for a couple of years. In that last year, she often mistook me as one of her children, rather than her grandchild. Our relationship became stronger in these days; there was an unspoken connection, safety, and comfort. When it came time for her funeral, I was numb. I knew I needed support because there was no one around me experiencing what I was struggling with. Nothing anyone said made me feel better. In fact, it always made me feel worse – it made me angry. I was cycling through numbness, anger, and guilt, and I didn’t know what to do.
When I first started attending my group at the Center, I didn’t talk very much. Just being around people who weren’t trying to fix me and solve my problems gave me the space to feel my feelings and let go in the way that worked for me. I was able to go home, decompress, and process my feelings more deeply. My group taught me how to advocate for myself and tell my friends whether or not I wanted to talk. Gaining the strength and resilience to speak up for myself was huge.
A few years later, I decided I wanted to ground myself by giving back. In my heart, I felt everyone should have access to the Center’s peer support model. Everyone’s loss is unique, and the Center can support anyone in whatever way they need. Somewhere in the process of being in my group and healing, I was curious about what happened in the kids’ groups. That’s when I looked into becoming a peer support group facilitator. I’ve spent most of my time in the volcano room, a room designed to support safe physical expression (currently virtual). I enjoy seeing a mix of all of the kids, having participants from the “Littles” group one moment, and “Tweens” group the next. It’s a very encompassing role, witnessing how they process their grief through different stages of development.
In June, 2018, my stepsister died. I knew that my nephews could benefit from the Center so I encouraged my stepmom to reach out. The boys attended groups for a couple of years during a time that was otherwise so chaotic for them. It gave them a safe space to talk about their feelings. Their time at the Center still echoes with them. Sometimes, out of nowhere, they’ll start talking about their mother and tell me that they miss her. The Center provided a safe place for them to trust and feel a sense of belonging so they could feel what they needed to feel.
The Center has magic. It offers safety and community, compassion, consistency, normalcy, and authenticity. All of the fronts that people have to put on for the outside world, like bandages covering up wounds, the Center allows the space for people to remove them so they can get down to their authentic selves in whatever way works for them. Peer support allows us to reach those places that are hard to tap into in the already busy, crazy, and now pandemic-stricken world.
I invite you to join me in giving back to the Center by making a lasting impact through a gift so that anyone experiencing grief in our Maine community – children, teens, young adults, parents, families, widows, widowers and partners, individuals with chronic illnesses or those experiencing collective loss – can have a safe space to grieve, find hope and love, and build resilience, no matter how long it takes.