Helping Children and Families Cope with Loss
Steve Adubato sits down with Mary Robinson, Executive Director & Founder of Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss, to discuss how her organization helps children and families handle death or life-altering illnesses.
"Hi, I'm Steve Adubato. Families deal, children deal, with grief, with loss of loved ones. The question is where do they go for help? We are pleased now to welcome Mary Robinson, Executive Director and Founder of an organization called Imagine, a center for coping with loss. Your organization is dedicated to exactly what I was just speaking about. Describe your organization Mary. Imagine is a free year-round grief support center for children and families coping with loss due to death or illness. We provide peer grief support groups for children age 3 to 18, young adults 18 to 30, and the parents or guardians. And all the children we serve have had either a parent, brother, or sister, or you know, a grandparent if they were a primary caregiver, who has died in their life. And we also have support programs for children who have a family member coping with a life altering physical illness. So it's a community-based model. We are currently serving over 285 children and adults from 55 New Jersey towns every two weeks at our center. We're able to do that because we use trained volunteers from the community. They're volunteers? We train them. They're volunteer facilitators. So children in grief, grief isn't pathological. There's nothing that needs to be fixed. There's nothing wrong. What kids really need after experience, a loss due to death of a parent or sibling is really a caring, functional adult in their life, who... and a safe space, and to be with other kids, find out that they're not alone, be able to tell their story, share their feelings, share memories of the person who died, and really just get support. And that's why this community model is able to use volunteers, who really are just caring adults in their life, who listen, create that safe space in the peer support group, and help the children express themselves and tell their story. Mary, you understand this from a very personal level? Yes. You had a loss at a very young age? 14? Yes. I was 14 when my father died of cancer. So actually one of the reasons that we have a program for kids coping with a family member with illness is, I always say, grief starts at the moment of a diagnosis. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 1973, he died in 1974. I was in middle school - junior school - and I started skipping school. So it was just a reaction to the disruption, the fear, the worry, everything really changed. Just changed when my dad got sick. You know, he looked different, he would... he no longer was going to work. So grief starts at the moment of diagnosis. Families need support during the illness but they also..."