When it comes to helping someone grieve the death of a loved one, you wouldn't expect that process to be compared to a trip to Disney World. But that's exactly how a 4 year old Hope and Healing Place Hope Camp attendant described it. Last summer, Junior League of Amarillo had the privilege of volunteering at Hope Camp for the first time. These women made a big difference in some of the youngest lives who have been hurt by the loss of a loved one.
Hope Camp is a week long summer camp for children in Kindergarten through 6th grade. It provides a happy place for children who have experienced the death of someone special. In one week, these kids do arts and crafts to honor their loved ones, meet new friends who have had a similar experience and learn how to better deal with their loss.
Junior League Active Taryn Price says, "Hope camp focuses on bringing back laughter and fun for many kids who have not experienced much of either in a while.” This was Taryn’s second volunteering experience with The Hope Healing Place. During camp, she helped give them the “Disney” experience and scored some major points with campers by helping provide a summer fun snowball fight. It was the highlight of camp according to many of the kids.
Second year active, Melissa Rhea also participated in the camp, where she got to share her passion for working with children with special needs. “I was able to see first-hand, children gain the skills they need to be able to cope and process their tremendous losses.” Rhea said. Working for AISD, Rhea was able to take what she learned at Hope Camp back to her career. “The new knowledge that I gained from the amazing professionals at Hope and Healing Place will help me be able to guide my children with special needs through their emotional journey.”
1 in 5 children will experience the death of someone close to them by age 18, according to Kenneth Doka, Editor of OMEGA, Journal of Death and Dying. Helping young children overcome the devastating effects of losing a loved one isn’t easy. But the help Junior League of Amarillo is invaluable to those children and families in our community.
By Rhonda Saied, HHP Jr. League Representative Spring 2018
For my first blog post, I want to share the story of my first miscarriage. Even though one in four women experience pregnancy loss, their experiences and feelings are not often discussed. I feel as though society expects women to silently carry this burden, as though their unborn child “doesn’t count”. When I miscarried in May of 2015, I desperately needed someone to understand what I was going through. I connected with a girl from my hometown who had mentioned her miscarriage on social media. Unfortunately, I felt like support was limited, and hard to find. I knew the statistics concerning women that miscarried, but, where were these people? None of my family nor my close friends had every miscarried. THIS is why I choose to share my story. I want to spread awareness of the ugly reality of miscarriage, and I want others to know they are not alone in their pain.
This lack of support, and my own personal inexperience left me petrified. I had just traveled from Amarillo to Lubbock for my sister-in-law’s wedding shower. Upon arrival, I noticed some spotting in my underwear. Since this was my first pregnancy, I became very distraught, and called my mother. She assured me some light spotting was normal. I stuck it out for the entire wedding shower, but I couldn’t help but feel something was wrong. I headed back home that afternoon and noticed worsening cramps. When I arrived home, my husband had me lay down on the couch, and we called the doctor who also said some spotting and mild cramping was nothing to be concerned about. However, the pain intensified greatly within a couple of hours. My husband rushed me to the hospital, and with just a couple of miles left to go, it began. I felt my body gush blood, and I knew right then, my pregnancy was over. The hospital staff brought a wheelchair out to the car and pulled me out of the blood-stained seat of my husband’s truck.
They got me in a room immediately and had me put on a gown. I felt an intense urge to use the restroom, so my husband helped me walk to the bathroom because I was unable to do so on my own with the intensity of the pain in my entire mid-section. I have no words to describe how frightening that bathroom experience was. I thought I had already lost a lot of blood, but when I sat on the toilet, it was as though my body was trying to drain every last ounce. It sounded like I dumped a bucket of water. The lack of control just wrought my mind and body with complete agony. The staff gave me some “granny panties” and a large pad which had to be changed multiple times during my short stay.
The waiting period was grueling because I wanted a definite answer about my unborn baby, and because I was in excruciating pain, but was not allowed pain meds until the miscarriage was confirmed. A woman performed an initial ultrasound but was not allowed to interpret the results. I had to wait on the doctor to do that. The doctor came and did a second test and examination. He used a tool, and removed the placenta and fetus from my body, and placed them in a test jar. I was 9 ½ weeks along and couldn’t bear to look. I glanced for just a second and saw that it was about the size of a grape. The start of my blood loss on the way to the hospital, and this moment still bring me to tears. The memory is forever burned into my mind, and sometimes, it feels as if I’m re-living it all over again. After the confirmation, I was given pain killers, and released within a couple of hours.
I thought that the pain would have mostly ended after the fetus was removed, but it worsened that evening. I felt pain throughout my entire abdomen and butt. It felt as though my intestines and organs were contracting. Despite the meds I had received through iv at the hospital, and my prescribed narcotics, I felt more pain than I ever had in my previous twenty-five years of life. It was not until the following evening that I felt any relief at all.
For months after my miscarriage, I fell into extreme depression. I cried myself to sleep every night and woke up crying most mornings. I found no joy in my usual favorite hobbies, and I despised every pregnant woman, and anyone with children. There was a constant struggle in my mind to understand the unfairness of the situation. I wondered why I couldn’t get pregnant, yet, so many morally deficient women seem to pop kids out every year. I became a new person, full of envy and hurt.
Fortunately, joy has since been restored to my life. I am now a foster mother (soon-to-be adoptive mother) to a beautiful two-year-old boy. God has proven his faithfulness and grace by bringing this child into my life who shares a birthday with the due date of my miscarried baby. If that was not enough reassurance for me, my child’s name also means “divine gift”.
I urge other women (those that feel comfortable) to share their stories. You never know who your story may help or who may reach out to you in the future for support. I plan to follow up on my story with details of helpful versus harmful words for those that are grieving, and also how my husband handled our loss in his own way.
Summer Hilliard - The Hope & Healing Place Volunteer and Blog Contributor
Grief due to the death of a family member or close friend can impact all aspects of our being. Physically, we may want to eat or sleep “all the time” or we could experience loss of appetite and insomnia. Emotionally, we often describe our journey as a roller coaster ride mixed with numbness. Socially or relationally, we may want people around us “all the time” or we could turn our back on even our closest family and friends. Spiritually, we may feel closer to God or we might believe we have been abandoned. Mentally or intellectually, some simple, familiar tasks may now seem insurmountable. We may have trouble concentrating or even hearing (comprehending) what those around us are saying. We may describe ourselves as “a wreck” or “a mess.” (Remember – that’s a temporary state of being, not a definition of the rest of our life!)
When we’re trying to function at home with all of that going on inside us, it’s often only by the love and grace of our family members that we get through the day. But what happens when we take the wreck or mess that we feel we’ve become and head back to work? Does the boss and our co-workers expect us to check our grief at the door?!
Not possible! As someone once observed, Wherever I go, there I am!
On the job, I may throw myself into work as a distraction – even to the point of becoming a workaholic. Or, I may hide myself away in my office, trying to avoid talking about my loss. I may cry more easily, and I may find it hard to stay on task, concentrate or remember. I may even turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cover my pain.
So, what can I do at work? I can begin by honestly communicating with my supervisor, then expand the conversation with my closest co-workers, explaining where I am right now on my journey. I don’t want my grief to become the elephant in the room that no one talks about. I can give the folks around me a heads up about some of the challenges I may experience on the job. I can ask for, and hope for, the support which will allow: breaks when I need them; permission to ask for assistance (for a while) from fellow team members; and giving me the benefit of the doubt when I say or do something that’s totally uncharacteristic of me. I can ask for outside support, if needed, from the company’s employee assistance program or a recommended counselor (whose services may be covered by my insurance).
I might also be able to improve my own ability to cope at work (and therefore at home) by suggesting my employer take advantage of community resource people to make an educational presentation at work about grief. Fellow employees who are knowledgeable about grief and mourning are also more likely to be more supportive of me. I can suggest the company consider offering a one-hour seminar in the fall, on the topic of Coping With Grief During the Holidays, as a tool to help all employees deal with issues they may now be facing or will face in the future.
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Two years ago, when my husband of thirteen years was killed in a vehicle accident, I found myself feeling helpless and carrying a brand-new set of fears about my teenage sons. My twin boys, who were fifteen years old at the time of their father’s death, handled the entire situation much differently than myself and my daughter. They only missed two days of school, choosing to immediately delve back into their regular routine. While my daughter and I held each other and cried, they displayed little emotion and almost seemed annoyed about our lack of restraint in showing our grief.
I interpreted their actions as a denial of what had happened and a resistance to deal with their emotions. Over the last two years I have come to understand that there is a big difference not only in how adolescents and adults deal with grief, but also how males and females deal with it. Slowly, I have realized that there was not anything innately wrong or harmful about their behavior; it was different than mine and confusing for me to watch, but not inherently wrong.
There are numerous things that factor into losing someone so close to you. One minute your loved one was there, the next minute they are gone. You feel shock, numb, and so much pain that you can not put it into words. I was enduring the pain of losing my best friend and companion, and they were trying to process that they would never interact with their father again while on this earth. I wanted so much to protect them for what had happened, but that was literally impossible. Right away, I was worried about how they were handling (or not handling) it.
Among the issues I noticed surrounding the loss of my husband was that from day one, people were unknowingly putting pressure on my sons that just was not helpful in any way. I know without a doubt that they were trying to help and carried no bad intentions toward our family, but it is my belief that their words did more harm than good. We heard things like, “You guys have to step up and be the men of the house now”, and “I know it’s hard, but it’s time to grow up and be men now; your mom needs you”. I believe that this put an unneeded pressure on my sons. We were all very aware of what was happening to our family and that our lives would be changed forever. They were stressed enough without people adding pressure. I use my own story as an illustration because during my research about how men grieve, I have come to see that men are fixers, they see asking for help as a weakness, and they want to seem strong. They will often bury and ignore feelings in order to seem strong and in control.
Haley Grissom - The Hope & Healing Place Volunteer and Blog Contributor
During my years of leading a grief support center that was much like The Hope & Healing Place¸ I observed two things about grieving men:
1. Men were much less likely to attend our support groups than women.
2. Many of the men who did attend would indicate that they were only there because of someone else. They had given in to pressure from their wife or felt they “had to attend” for the sake of their children or grandchildren.
I remember a guy who, during the intake process at our grief center, almost begged to be allowed to sit in his truck in our parking lot while the kids attended their group meeting. (No, we didn’t buy it.)
But, most of the men who do attend grief support groups eventually (some sooner than others) begin to realize the benefits, open up to their group, and end up contributing in positive ways to the support of others.
Take the guy who wanted to sit in his truck, for instance. He got into the support group process so fully that he willingly appeared in our center’s promotional video, telling others what a benefit it was to him and his daughters.
There were other men who overcame their hesitation about the grief support group process and returned as group facilitators – sharing what they had learned and experienced with others!
While many men are more private about sharing their feelings, often we guys need just the right setting to allow us to open up. When I “make my rounds” as the staff support guy (ie: corporate chaplain) at Street Toyota and Street Volkswagen, I often find that some of the men are more likely to open up to me about life’s challenges when we are “doing” something. We may be looking under the hood of a car in the shop when they start talking. Other guys will tell me, “Let’s take a walk” and do their talking while we walk around the back parking lot of the dealership.
I vividly recall a family intake meeting where the woman told us, “I don’t know that my husband will attend the support groups, but if he does, I know he won’t say anything.” You see, he was a “tough guy” in the eyes of most – working in law enforcement and in the military reserves. Sure enough, he said nothing in the group meetings for weeks, allowing his wife to do their talking. That is, until the evening when each group member had the opportunity to make a memory box. Colorful napkins were trimmed to fit a box, then coated with decoupage material to make them adhere and shine when the coating dried. That night was “tough guy’s” night! While focusing on his box, and without making eye contact with the group, he talked on and on. He started with his frustrations in law enforcement, where there are times they had to make death notifications at a family’s home, then go right back out on the streets without processing the situation. He finally ended up talking openly about his own family’s feelings of loss – much to the amazement of his wife!
Yes, men may need some different settings or opportunities before they are comfortable sharing – or, they may just need time to adjust to the group setting and realize that they are surrounded by other grieving people who they can trust with their feelings.
For some of us guys, it takes time to even allow our feelings to surface. For months after my dad’s death to cancer, I was doing “just fine” – since, after all, I was the “grief support guy.” Until one damp winter day when our family gathered in the back yard for the burial / memorial time for our pet cat, Smokey. It began to rain as we said our goodbyes, so I encouraged my wife and two sons to go on into the house while I shoveled the dirt to close the grave. Task completed, I stood there, leaning on the shovel handle crying… sobbing. In a reflective moment, I realized that I wasn’t just crying about the death of our family pet, but I was finally allowing my pent-up emotions related to my father’s death to come to the surface and be expressed through my tears.
So I conclude where I began, with the title affirmation: Yes, Guys… It’s Good For Us, Too!
Memory Box photo credit: Mélisande* <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/32618149@N00/39535963094">Noshi Valentine</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
Some say, “Death is a part of life that people just have to deal with. So, why have grief support groups where people just keep feeling sad?”
Individuals who raise such questions usually do not fully understand the purpose and value of grief support groups. These groups exist to provide a safe and supportive environment where those who are mourning the death of a family member or friend can find and give encouragement and support. Consider why people find benefit from a support group, whether at The Hope & Healing Place or elsewhere in the community:
By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
We can all use some self reflection. Most times, what we are showing the world does not reflect the torment within. It's not about dwelling on negative emotion, but rather processing through the most difficult loss in our lives and finding the "attitude of gratitude" that remains. What better way to start than by #GivingTuesday in conjunction with www.thepanhandlegives.org.
Your generous donations allow us to provide a safe place for families and individuals to share their story and process their grief.
Recently, I told my mom I was excited to set up for Christmas. The only thing holding me back was that I really enjoyed my Fall/Thanksgiving décor. This wasn't the case not even 5 years ago, and it certainly wasn't the case 11 years ago. I had always pictured myself as being the mom with everything decked out, Christmas spirit abounding clear to my children's wardrobe. Then in September of 2006, our son Ethan died. Approximately, six weeks stood between the grief that overwhelmed me and the "wonder" of the holiday season. Humbug! I rallied myself just enough to decorate a tree and get a few presents under the tree, I wasn't quite ready to deal with the Holidays.
Earlier this month, Danny Mize came and shared with the families of HHP about how they can better prepare themselves for this time, that may not feel like the most joyous of seasons. Here is what he shared:
Some traditions will overwhelm you, others you'll hold so tight they might break and still there might be new traditions to implement (we'll talk on this topic soon). The point is, be kind... to yourself and those around you. Be willing to share what is too much, and ask for reprieve. It's not selfish, it's self care.
Wishing you all the ability to find hope this Holiday Season,
Please allow us to introduce HOPE the butterfly. She is the symbol of Children's Grief Awareness, which will be recognized on November 16, 2017.
Our request is simple, print out a copy of Hope, write a message.
In memory of…You may be holding on to HOPE in memory of someone you love. Who is that person, and what memories do you want to share about them?
In honor of…You may know a child (or an adult) who is grieving the loss of a loved one. You may be holding on to HOPE in honor of them. Who is that person, and what makes him/her special?
In support of…You may know someone that volunteers or works for The Hope And Healing Place. You might want to hold on to HOPE in support of them. Who is it at HHP, and what do they do to make you proud of their work?
From… Or you (individually or as a particular group) may simply want to hold on to HOPE in support of all grieving children and send out HOPE from yourself, your family or your group. Who are you, and what would you like to say to grieving kids?
Or any other message that you want to share and take a photo of while they "Hold On To HOPE".
Take a photo, share it, and let others know why this cause and our center is important to you!
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