One child out of every 20 will have a parent die before graduating from high school, according to the US Census, and it’s estimated that one of every seven will experience the death of a parent or sibling before age 20, according to a recent New York Life Foundation/NAGC survey of children and teenagers. As a culture, we are often quick to dismiss or downplay the needs of children and teens in mourning; as a result, their emotions are often misunderstood. Children’s Grief Awareness Day takes place November 19, and it is an opportunity to consider the unique needs of these children and teens. To mark the day, we will be wearing blue at The Children’s Room, and we have shaded our Facebook and Twitter profiles blue, and we encourage you to do the same. One of the greatest needs of a child or teen experiencing the grief that comes with the death of a parent or sibling is a safe place in which they can express what they’re experiencing without fear of judgment or fear that they will be told how they should be feeling. At The Children’s Room, we work to create a space in which no child or teen feels isolated or alone in their grief, as they might feel at home or at school. By honoring Children’s Grief Awareness Day, we can create a world in which death and grieving is integrated into our lives as a normal life event, and in such a way that leads to greater compassion, hope, and growth. To learn more about how best to talk to children about death and dying, we encourage you to listen to this Arlington Public News audio interview with TCR [...]
If you’re reading this then you know we’ve launched a new website! We’re incredibly excited to bring this new resource to those interested in learning more about the process of creating safe, supportive communities so that no child, teen, or family has to grieve alone. To make our information more widely accessible, we built our new site to be much easier to navigate on laptops, mobile phones, and tablet. Please take a look around! We’re always looking for ways to more easily connect with our community. If you haven’t already visited us on Facebook, please check out our page for daily posts of information and inspiration. You can also follow us on Twitter for news and information about our work.
The Children’s Room (TCR) is proud to announce that it raised more than $100,000 at its 12th Annual Memories Walk held October 25, 2015. It is the first time that funds raised through the Memories Walk have exceeded $100,000; last year’s Memories Walk raised $82,000 for The Children’s Room. The three-mile Memories Walk was held in Arlington and nearly 350 community members participated. Many wore red Memories That Move Us T-shirts that included the names of loved ones in whose memory they were walking. “This event is a meaningful and fun way to celebrate our special community and remember loved ones,” said TCR Executive Director Donna Smith Sharff. “In doing so, we raised more than $100,000 to support our programs assisting grieving children, teens, and families. This is the first time we’ve exceeded $100,000 in fundraising from our Walk, and it is a continuation of the success we have seen this year that’s included the expansion of our work with teens; our provision of services in neighboring communities, including Boston; and the amazing show of confidence in our work by supporters like Robert Kraft, who recently contributed $100,000 to our organization. ” We also invite you to sign up for our email updates, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter to learn more about our work.
The evening of October 1 was a special one for a group of teens who participate in our programs for young people. They met with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who engaged them in a wide-ranging discussion about dealing with life’s challenges that touched on grief, philosophy―and football. Last year, Mr. Kraft generously donated $100,000 to The Children’s Room so that we could expand our outreach to grieving teens, who are a traditionally under-served group. Because a portion of the grant was contingent on our ability to match it, Mr. Kraft’s gift has resulted in more than $150,000 in new funding for our work with teens. During the visit, Mr. Kraft experienced the safe, healing atmosphere of our big yellow house in Arlington. He toured the center, and then sat with our teens and chatted with them about their experiences with TCR and, of course, football! To read an Arlington Advocate article about Mr. Kraft’s visit, please click here. To see photos from our time with Mr. Kraft, please visit our Facebook page. To read a Boston Globe article about Mr. Kraft’s gift and the impact it is having on TCR, please click here.
We are thrilled to welcome Andrea Perry, our newest member of the TCR Board of Directors. Andrea received her undergraduate degree at Smith College and earned an MSW at Boston College School of Social Work. She is also an alumna of Boston University’s Institute for Non-Profit Management and Leadership program. She brings with her to TCR over twenty years of experience working directly with Boston’s at-risk youth in various neighborhoods of the city. Currently, Andrea serves as the Executive Director of YouthConnect, a program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston in partnership with the Boston Police Department. YouthConnect places clinical social workers in police stations across the city to provide police-referred, high-risk, and proven-risk young people and families with voluntary, comprehensive clinical and case-management services. In 2012, Andrea was named by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for youth violence prevention. Andrea began attending TCR Board meetings as a member in January 2015, but she had utilized TCR as a training resource for fellow staff members at YouthConnect and Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston for years before bringing her experience and her expertise to our Board. That experience drove her to want to serve with us. As she said, “I wanted to serve on the Board of TCR because I know how important it is to help children positively cope with their grief. I am excited by TCR’s efforts to deepen their services to teens and to the children, families, and neighborhoods of Boston.” Welcome, Andrea, and thank you!
It seems almost impossible that it’s already time to gather books and backpacks and to recalibrate our bodies and minds to the rhythms set by the school year. This time of year can present a particularly difficult set of adjustments for grieving children, teens, and parents. For parents and caregivers, sending a grieving child or teen back to school can bring up a wide range of emotions. Parents want their children to feel safe, and they may worry about their grieving child stepping out the door and into a less sheltered, less understanding environment outside of the home. Children and teens may crave a return to the normalcy and safety provided by school routine, but they may also find that their peers often misunderstand the many conflicting feelings caused by their loss. School teachers, counselors, and administrators might find themselves needing to support a grieving student and not know where to turn. It can be a difficult time of year, and there are no easy answers. We would like to share a few important tips, compiled by our friends at The Dougy Center. We believe they represent some great guidelines for teachers, parents, and anyone else who might be caring for a grieving child or teen as he or she heads back to school. DO listen. Grieving students need a safe, trusted adult who will listen to them. DO follow routines. Routines provide a sense of safety, which is very comforting to the grieving student. DO set limits. Just because students are grieving, doesn’t mean that the rules do not apply. When grieving, students may experience lapses in concentration or exhibit risk-taking behavior. Setting clear limits provides a more secure and safer environment for everyone under these circumstances. [...]
In June, staff members from The Children’s Room (TCR) attended the 2015 National Alliance For Grieving Children Symposium in Portland, Oregon. Held annually, this conference brings together professionals from across the United States and Canada who work in the field of grief support. TCR staff has been a regular contributor at this gathering, the largest of its kind in the country. At this year’s symposium, Associate Program Directors Laurie Moskowitz-Corrois and Colleen Shannon presented a workshop about TCR’s Monthly Family Night. Through an interactive, activity-based learning and discussion session, Laurie and Colleen shared their expertise and their experience with incorporating expressive arts activities into the healing process of grieving families. Education Director Deborah Rivlin and Clinical Director Nancy Frumer Styron presented on Parenting While Grieving, TCR’s educational and support series for parents or guardians who are raising children who had a parent die. During their lecture and discussion session at the symposium, Deborah and Nancy shared TCR’s distinctive, eight-week model for helping parents and caregivers develop strategies for dealing with the challenges of parenting while navigating their own grief. TCR staff received overwhelmingly positive feedback from their peers about both presentations. Conference-goers said that tremendous needs in their own grief support communities could be filled by following TCR’s Family Night and Parenting While Grieving models, and there was significant interest in adopting similar programming at their own organizations. This and other conference experiences affirmed that The Children’s Room is a leader in its field.
Last night, volunteers and staff at TCR shared heartfelt memories of Franz Wright, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who had spent many years volunteering alongside them in Thursday night peer support groups at TCR. Wright died in his home on Thursday, May 14th at the age of 62. His family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his memory to The Children's Room. Though he will be missed, we are deeply grateful for his continued legacy of support for grieving children and families. View obituary in the Boston Globe
Mother's Day can bring up a variety of different feelings, especially if you are grieving the death of someone important to you. You may be remembering your mother, grandmother, or other important figure in your life. You may also be grieving for a child who has died or for the loss of the family and future you envisioned for yourself. No matter how long it has been since they died, or what your relationship was like with them when they were alive, it is normal to have many conflicting feelings around your loss. Allow yourself the time and space to acknowledge whatever feelings you may have, and remember that experiencing happiness and moving forward in your life in no way diminishes the love you have for that person. Everyone experiences grief in a unique way. There is no time frame for grief or "right way" to remember someone who has died. If you have experienced the death of a child, you may find this Huffington Post blog post by Claire McCarthy, M.D. comforting and helpful: "Being the Mother of a Child Who Died -- On Mother's Day." "It can feel very lonely, being the parent of a child who died. Especially on Mother's Day or Father's Day. We feel so different from those around us, all those happy people with children the same age our child was, or would have been. But over the years, I've come to understand that I'm not alone at all." We're grateful this thoughtful, personal piece has been shared with so many people and hope it has led to meaningful discussions about grief and loss. If you would like to share memories or ideas for remembering your special person, you're [...]
In March 2011, one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history hit the coast of Japan, triggering a tsunami with waves reaching over 100 feet high and traveling as far as 6 miles inland. Nearly 19,000 people died, with many more seriously injured or missing. Over 2,500 children had one or both of their parents die in the disaster, leading to a national effort to create support systems to help the grieving families left behind. At the invitation of Japan’s Miyagi prefecture (the area hardest hit), Donna Smith Sharff, TCR’s Executive Director, traveled to Japan in December to train mental health professionals and caregivers on how to support grieving children and teens. The disaster relief committee in Miyagi covered all expenses and made arrangements for Donna to present at several conferences across the affected region – including Miyagi’s capital of Sendai and the Ishinomaki and Kessennuma prefectures – training a total of 230 professionals. During her travels, Donna also visited one of Japan’s grief centers for families, theRainbow House in Sendai. While touring the center, she asked Director Yoshiji Hayashida what children say their favorite thing is about coming to Rainbow House. He said what he hears the most is that children no longer feel alone. This powerful statement is the same thing that TCR volunteer facilitators and staff hear most often from the grieving children, teens, and families we serve. A group of medical and mental health professionals from Japan also had the opportunity to tour The Children’s Room (pictured below, right). A social worker at Boston Children’s Hospital, Shuei Kozu, arranged for Japanese professionals to visit Boston for a week-long training in October 2012, including a day at The Children’s Room. During [...]