Teens talked openly with young adult TCR alumni about grief in college, grief on social media, and much more. In June, we hosted a unique Teen Program event: a panel discussion providing teens a safe space to ask a group of five TCR alumni questions about their experiences coping with grief in adolescence and about the transitions into life as a young adult. Each of the five young adults who participated were college-aged, and all five are alumni of our programs from their childhood and/or teenage years. The teens who attended were all of high school age. The group got to know each other a bit during icebreakers, pairing up to share responses to amusing personal or theoretical questions. Each of the young adults then took a few minutes to share their grief story, how they managed adolescence, and the transition into college. Afterwards, the entire group—teens and young adults together—participated in an open discussion about their experiences. A number of common themes emerged throughout the conversation. Teens talked about how experiencing the death has changed them as a friend and family member, managing tough days (like anniversaries and milestones), choosing how and what to share with peers, others reactions, the part that social media plays in grieving, and their hopes and anticipations for the future. “I was impressed by the openness of the teens’ questions and by how thoughtful the young adult alumni were in sharing their answers,” said Christine Lambright, Youth & Community Outreach Coordinator. “The young adults prepared notes on their stories ahead of time and gave real consideration to what they would have wanted to know back when they were a teen.” The teens and young adults were able to relate with each other on [...]
Phyllis Silverman was one of a kind. She was a towering intellectual force in a small frame. She didn’t initially intend to work in the field of bereavement, but ultimately, as a researcher and author, she dedicated her forty year career to challenging the notion of bereavement as a pathology or an “illness” that could—or should—be cured. She was unwavering in her commitment to expressing a child or teen’s right to grieve, and she spent her life’s work providing writing, research, tools, and guidance for the bereaved and those supporting them. Everyone who knew her well had to smile at the fact that Phyllis never, ever hesitated to speak her mind and tell her truth along the way. We at The Children’s Room are deeply saddened by Phyllis’s death. All of us are going to miss her deeply. We mourn the loss not just of a pioneer in our field of bereavement; in Phyllis, we mourn our organization’s bedrock foundation and the truest champion of our work, as well as a dear friend in our personal lives. Our three founders: Judy Oliver, Phyllis Silverman, and Jean Marchant After all, it was Phyllis’s vision and dogged persistence that helped to bring this very organization into being. When Phyllis began meeting with fellow cofounders Jean Marchant and Judy Oliver about creating a center for grief and loss, it became abundantly clear that serving grieving children was the single most pressing need to be filled, and The Children’s Room was born. When they were no longer able to operate as a part of Hospice West, they felt stymied as they searched for a new home for the program until a Baptist minister graciously arranged for space [...]
My name is Emily Carson Dashawetz, and I am the Communications & Marketing Coordinator for The Children’s Room. June 15, 2016, marked my one-year anniversary on staff, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to introduce myself. Before joining the staff, I worked for eight years as an editor at the Harvard Alumni Association’s Class Report Office. As I considered what might lie ahead for my career after such a long and fruitful chapter at Harvard, I felt called to incorporate my passion for community building and service into my daily work. I’m still amazed that acting on the persistence of that call by setting up my first ever Idealist.org job search led me back to TCR, where I was a volunteer peer support group facilitator in the Sunday group from 2008 to 2011. My three years as a volunteer made one thing clear: the grief support resources provided by TCR are essential to building strong, healthy communities. I wanted to be a part of that as a staff member. However, what drew me here professionally was the opportunity to contribute to this organization’s remarkable progress by bolstering its communications efforts. The energy here has been palpable. Within my first six months on staff, we launched TCR’s newly redesigned website, and we shared the news that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft came to visit with a group of our teens in October—and that was just the beginning. Whether I’ve been working on deepening our engagement with our online community via social media or sharing news about our Boston Marathon team with local newspapers, I have been empowered to tell TCR’s story from many different angles. As a member of TCR’s administrative team, my [...]
Participants were able to experience a TCR Family Night activity in an interactive presentation led by Laurie Moskowitz-Corrois and Colleen Shannon. In June, staff members from The Children’s Room (TCR) attended the 2016 National Alliance For Grieving Children Symposium in Indianapolis, Indiana. 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 Family Night program, an expressive arts-based evening that offers grieving family members the opportunity to work together on a specific project. 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. “Our Family Night program allows us to support many families whose needs are best served through this monthly activity,” said TCR Executive Director Donna Smith Sharff. “At NAGC’s symposium, we were proud to have the opportunity to share this program’s success with helping families integrate loss into the life of their new family structure.” TCR staff received overwhelmingly positive feedback from their peers about the presentation. Conference-goers said that their communities could be better served with programming like TCR’s Family Night model, 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.
Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 19th. Reminders seem to be everywhere – in the greeting card aisles at the store, ads that appear wherever you look, and friends and family making plans for the weekend ahead. This time of year can be hard for those who have lost their fathers, and for fathers who are grieving a child. Give yourself permission to spend the day in whatever way feels best to you. For some, that might mean participating in family traditions or sharing special memory foods. You could also create new rituals and find new ways to remember and celebrate the life of the person who died. If you're with a bereaved dad on Father’s Day, be sure to ask how they are doing; he may decline to talk, but offering to listen is an important gesture in showing your care. If you’re supporting a bereaved child or teen, make sure you ask directly what might be helpful for them. The child or teen may have clear ideas about what will make them most comfortable, but they may not be able to articulate it without being asked. Sometimes the anticipation of the day can be harder than the day itself. It is often helpful to plan ahead for how you want to spend the day. Everyone’s grief is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to observe holidays like Father’s Day. This is just one day of the year, but you carry your loss with you year-round. You don’t have to pressure yourself to make this day fit into some kind of mold of what it “should” be. You are the expert on your own grief.
The Children’s Room staff and interns celebrate receiving a Cummings Foundation “100k for 100” grant The Children’s Room is proud to announce that it is one of 100 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s “$100K for 100” program. The Children's Room was chosen from a total of 479 applicants, during a competitive review process. The Children’s Room’s executive director, Donna Smith Sharff, said, “This grant from Cummings Foundation is an extraordinary gift that will allow us to continue to provide our peer support groups free of charge. Family finances may be uncertain following a death, and The Children’s Room does not want to add additional pressure to families during difficult times of loss and change.” Smith Sharff added, “This gift will help us expand our services to grieving children, teens, and families by enhancing our peer support services at our center in Arlington and at area schools and local organizations, such as Boys & Girls Clubs.” The $100K for 100 program supports nonprofits that are not only based in but also primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. This year, the program is benefiting 41 different cities and towns within the Commonwealth. Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate Cummings Properties. Founded in 1970 by Bill Cummings of Winchester, the Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages more than 10 million square feet of space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation. “We admire and very much appreciate the important work that nonprofit organizations like The Children’s Room are doing in the [...]
From early April until Mother’s Day is over, it seems every business is promoting gifts for mothers while dolling out advice about how to make Mom feel special on her big day. Friends on Facebook begin sharing old photos early and often, and of course they will be sure to post new family photos as they smile together on that special day in early May. But if you are a mother who is grieving for a child who has died, or if you are a child who is grieving for his or her mother, the conversations and feelings around Mother’s Day can be overwhelming. First and foremost, it’s important to actually pause and recognize that Mother’s Day can bring up a variety of different feelings if you are grieving the death of someone important to you. Some of those feelings will conflict directly with feelings you had just minutes ago—and that’s okay. No matter how long it has been since the person in your life died, or what your relationship was like with them when they were alive, it is normal to have many conflicting feelings around your loss. It may be that you grieve not only the loss of their physical presence in your life, but also the loss of the family and future you envisioned for yourself. You may grieve advice that was never able to be given, or the advice you were never able to give. 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. Some will choose to [...]
Photo by Theresa Johnson Herlihy Considering how diverse and demanding her role is, it’s hard to believe that there was ever a time at TCR without our office manager, Nicole Campbell. April 15, 2016, marked the completion of Nicole’s first year on staff, and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate all that she’s done in that time to help strengthen our organization. “It’s so wonderful having Nicole’s wide-ranging skills on our team,” said TCR Executive Director Donna Smith Sharff. “Nicole’s areas of responsibility span everything from information management and computer technology to purchasing, billing, and human resources. She is also responsible for managing the facilities maintenance and day-to-day upkeep of our center. We needed someone experienced, well-rounded, and willing to engage such a challenge with a warm smile. We are deeply thankful to have found that person in Nicole.” There’s no doubt Nicole’s diverse background has made her the well-rounded professional that she is. Nicole received a B.A. in sociology, with minors in psychology and English, at the University of Vermont, where she graduated in 2010. Following college, she served with AmeriCorp VISTA, as a program support specialist at the Stern Center for Language and Learning. With AmeriCorps she had the opportunity to receive monthly professional education with regard to nonprofit operations and leadership. She then worked for Work Opportunities Unlimited, as a career resource specialist, supporting clients with career planning, development, and retention. Most recently she worked as the facilities coordinator for Walnut Street Center, Inc., a nonprofit human service agency that provides comprehensive supports to adults with developmental disabilities in the Arlington, Cambridge, and Somerville area. At Walnut Street Center, Nicole managed the day-to-day operations of twelve facilities. When asked what drew [...]
Martin Conneely with TCR Executive Director Donna Smith Sharff In honor of National Volunteer Week 2016, we're proud and grateful to share Martin Conneely's story with you! The Consummate Family Man Martin Conneely is the ultimate hometown man. He was born and raised in Arlington, and he has been deeply appreciative of Arlington’s unique sense of community his entire life. Shortly after high school he married his wife of 20 years, Kerri, who was also born and raised in Arlington. It’s easy to see that she, along with their four daughters, provide the warm light you notice right away in Marty’s eyes when you meet him. In 1991, he founded his own local company, Conneely Contracting Inc. (CCI), following in the footsteps of his mentor and father who owned and operated a local roofing company. Everything felt rooted, settled, and secure—until the news came. A Devastating Diagnosis In 1998, shortly after the birth of the first of his four daughters, Marty was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer found in the sinuses. He was only 25 years old. Rather than allow the diagnosis to stop him in his tracks, he leaned on the support of family and friends, determined to keep an upbeat attitude. He endured two years of intense treatment, including the setbacks of many surgeries that simply weren’t successful. After a seemingly endless tide of surgeries and worry, he received a clean bill of health—and wasted no time giving back to the community he loved so much. “One of the lucky ones”: The gift of gratitude In the spring of 2004, with a renewed sense of appreciation for his family, friends, and the Arlington community, Marty made a huge commitment. He decided [...]
On Tuesday, March 15, TCR's Colleen Shannon and Nancy Frumer Styron, along with our partners from the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Rachel Rodrigues and Alexandra A. Chery, presented a webinar entitled "Providing Culturally Responsive Grief Support to Children and Adolescents,” hosted by the National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC). These four care providers, from diverse backgrounds, talked openly and thoughtfully about what it means, as individuals and as organizations, to bring cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness to our work in grief support. One of the program's biggest takeaways? Before all else, we must first build self-reflection into the very fabric of our work and how we provide services. As individuals and as agencies, we must first look inward to understand the influences that shape our beliefs, behaviors, values, attitudes, and traditions. We need to understand the factors that shape our worldview, the many cultures we come from, as well as those that influence how the world views us. Self-reflection is not just a first or one-time step. Self-reflection is an ongoing process that requires continual adjustment and refinement as we learn more and ask more questions and receive new information. As Colleen noted, "Just as grieving is a cyclical process, being culturally responsive can be seen as an ongoing cycle of self-reflection and growth." As Alexandra said, we must continually "tune in to our comfort and discomfort" when we're working with others we identify as culturally different than us. We must be ever mindful of our own cultural biases and interests that come to bear on our work. A crucial piece is being aware of the language we use and a willingness to change that language in an ongoing way. It is also important to recognize when [...]