July 2, 2019. By John Wolfsberg.
On June 18th we had the pleasure of hosting representatives from The Children’s Room to learn more about living through loss. The Children’s Room is a grief center in Arlington, MA offering free services to children, teens, and families who have experienced the unexpected death of a parent or sibling. At Centerpoint, we often help clients navigate the estate side of loss as a natural element of our services. We reached out to TCR to inquire whether they would be available to provide resources on how to better provide emotional support as well, as we always try to be present and provide kindness with the relationships we cultivate. Thankfully, they were happy to provide Philanthropy Director, Kim Cayer, and Bereavement Coordinator, Jen Noonan, for the morning to present to a group of our colleagues.
Both Kim and Jen were kind enough to share their journey and how they became involved with the organization. Kim began with TCR through a volunteering opportunity with a friend and has been committed to their mission ever since. Jen runs support programs for children and teens at the Jimmy Fund clinic in the pediatric oncology unit at Boston Children’s Hospital, and found The Children’s Room when searching for resources for families who did not receive a favorable outcome, as unfortunately happens too often, even when following the highest level of care for cancer patients. TCR offers therapeutic relief to families as they seek normalization while experiencing an unsettling range of emotions.
Naturally, younger children are not able to verbalize their emotions as well as they would like. This leaves grieving parents desperate in a way to connect to a child’s experience and perception of the deceased family member. Jen and her team have incorporated many tools to help children communicate that parents and guardians have found very helpful, including a “Question Ball” and a group favorite, the Scream Box. The Scream Box is a creative apparatus made of a tissue box and paper towel core where the children can write about their emotions. When they are feeling especially angry or overwhelmed, they can scream into the tube to let go of some of their stress in an acceptable way.
An important takeaway from the talk was that there is not any right or wrong emotion when experiencing loss, and that transcends age. As professionals often inserted into the grieving process fairly close to the date of loss, Kim and Jen noted validating this point is perhaps the best way we can help. The Children’s Room tries to offer various ways for families to communicate their emotions in a safe environment free of judgement. Programs include peer groups, family nights, teen groups and outings, and several different types of activity rooms within the big yellow house that has been transformed to hold the organization’s programs. The Children’s Room began as just a small room in a Hospice over 25 years ago, and now serves over 110 communities, 150 families, and 400 children between the ages of 3.5 and 18. As you can imagine, volunteers are a large component of what make this wonderful organization run and are always welcomed. To learn more about TCR, visit www.childrensroom.org.