What Volunteers Say
Christine: "We all need somebody to care about us."
Christine began working with grieving children and families at the Caring Place in 2006. She has worked with children in the middle grades as well as with younger school-age children.
"Wouldn't I want someone to help me?"
One of the main reasons why I wanted to volunteer at the Caring Place is because people always need somebody to talk to and children are no exception to that. My neighbor has been a volunteer for the Caring Place for number of years, and one day she approached me about just working with children. I hesitated at first a little bit, but I thought if I were in that situation, wouldn't I want somebody to help me or my own children out? So I agreed to try it.
When I thought about grieving children, I wondered if I could do this. I thought it would be a place where it was always sad, where when the families walked in the door, they would still be frowning and grieving. It didn't turn out to be that way.
When they came in, it wasn't necessarily with all smiles, but it wasn't a sad place for them. The children were ready to play, and they welcomed us with open arms although we were supposed to have been the ones welcoming them.
But they made me feel comfortable as I was helping them feel comfortable. And here were these children who had lost a loved one and they were enjoying themselves at the same time. I kind of had the feeling that when someone was grieving, they couldn't be happy. These kids were grieving, but in that grieving process, they were still having fun. It showed me that they still need to have fun, and they need people they can have fun with.
What the Caring Place offers the children
When you've lost someone, sometimes you lose some of your friends too because they don't understand what you're going through. Thinking about some of the kids that came in to the Caring Place, not knowing each other at the beginning, kind of quiet and shy, and to watch the kids make friends over the weeks that was a privilege.
You'd see them exchanging telephone numbers, laughing, greeting each other and happy to see each other, asking what they did in school that week, where they went on the weekend, what vacations they were taking. They built a bond, knowing that someone else had also been through the same types of things that they were going through.
The Caring Place offered them someone whom they could talk to not only at the Caring Place itself, but they shared with each other outside as well.
In losing a loved one, sometimes that separates surviving family members too. I remember two sisters that had lost a father. At the beginning, they seemed to be angry at each other but as the time went on, they seemed to have gotten closer themselves. So I got to watch them become a closer unit and understand some of the things that the other one was feeling as they expressed themselves each week. Again, it was a privilege to see that they didn't lose each other.
A lot of the children walk in feeling alone, feeling that no one can understand their grief. At the Caring Place, they come to know that there are others that have lost a loved one who can relate to some of the things that they've gone through.
I think that the kids grow in their grief, knowing that someone else cares about them not just the volunteers but the other children that they've met, the other people that are their age that are going through the same thing.
The importance of sharing
Sharing and talking keeps you from holding things inside. When you can share your personal feelings about someone you've lost, it gives you an opportunity to keep those memories fresh, it gives you an opportunity just to share those things that you loved about them and what they loved about you and just keeps that happiness going, that sometimes gets blocked inside.
The Caring Place helps the kids just to meet other kids, but the activities that they participate in are also helpful. I think the activities help them to talk about the person that died, help them to share about the person, because sometimes people don't want to hear about these things. But here you get that opportunity and you know people are going to listen.
For instance, making a memory box helps them to have something that they can decorate, that they can put items in from the loved one they lost and talk about them. In making the different collages you get a chance to show people that "My father loved to go fishing and we loved to hang out at the beach." Even playing with Model Magic, you find that they tend to have the same color, the favorite color of the person that they've lost.
The Caring Place is a place where a child can come and be a child and know that they will be cared about. It's a place where they can openly share their feelings. They can express the things they're going through and know that what happens at the Caring Place will stay in the Caring Place.
The volunteers do care for the families that come. We will do whatever we can to make the evening they're having with us a great evening. If the kids just want to sit and talk, we'll sit and talk with them. If they want to be a part of the group, they can be a part of the group. This is a place that you can come and just open up your heart and feel great even in the midst of your grief.
The reason why I continue to volunteer is because every day someone loses somebody, and we all need somebody to care about us. We all need to know that there is some place that we can go to and talk to somebody and meet other people that are going through grief themselves.