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Westfield’s Imagine Center to Recognize Children’s Grief Awareness Day with Evening of Remembrance and a New Garden

Jackie Lieberman

Monday, November 12, 2012 • 1:24pm

WESTFIELD, NJ—Thursday, November 15, is Children’s Grief Awarness Day and Westfield’s Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss is recognizing that day with two events.

At 11 a.m. in Mindowaskin Park, Senator Tom Kean, a member of the Imagine Leadership Council, will help kickoff the creation a healing garden. The project, initiated by Imagine and The Friends of Mindowaskin,  will transform a section of land in the park into a healing garden for children and adults. It received the approval of the Westfield Town Council and the Department of Recreation in October.

A task force is being formed of horticultural therapists, master gardeners, members of the Friends of Mindowaskin and other members of the community, as well as Imagine staff and volunteers. This task force will be charged with coming up with a design, timeline, implementation plan and funding. It is hoped that the garden will be complete by next November 15.

That evening, at 1 East Broad Street, from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m., the center will host “i Remember—An Evening of Hospitality, Healing and Hope,” a community-wide evening of remembrance for children and adults of all ages.

The purpose of the event is to remember the people who have died and  to celebrate the resilience and healing of those who grieve. There will be fun activities for children of all ages and refreshments.

“This event serves a number of purposes,” said Mary Robinson, founder and executive director of Imagine, which opened earlier this year. “It will let grieving children and families and other adults know that they are not alone in their grief as they feel the support of the community and of their peers. Through a community art project, and the sharing, music, memories and readings, people will experience the healing and therapeutic power and support provided by a caring community of individuals. We hope people will leave the evening feeling more hopeful, resilient and less alone in their grief while learning of available resources in the community. “

Imagine is a free year-round grief support center for children and adults who are coping with the death or illness of a family member or friend. "Our mission is to support people coping with loss and to foster resiliency," said Robinson, "We also work to raise awareness about grief and loss as a way to normalize grief in our communities and help children and adults feel less alone when they are grieving.”

Robinson told TAP, “Over 40 years ago, Elizabeth Kubler Ross said ‘Children are the forgotten mourners.’ I feel incredibly hopeful that this is no longer the case.  Children's grief and grief in general has become a national conversation thanks to organizations like the National Alliance for Grieving Children and initiatives like Children's Grief Awareness Day, and the growing number of grief support centers like Imagine around the country.

“Imagine is the fourth center to open in New Jersey and I hope someday there is one in every county in the state.  With 20,000 children a year who will lose a parent to death annually in New Jersey, there is no end to the need.  The more centers we have, the more children and the more types of losses we can serve. This community-based model is applicable and powerful for all types of loss, including the everyday challenges children and adults face in life. 

“The ripple effect of Imagine is that grief support is not just happening on the nights we have our program.  It is happening in all facets of the community as our trained adult facilitators bring what they have learned into their work places, communities and families. I can't tell you how many of our volunteers have told us how grateful their children, spouses, friends and even work colleagues are because now they feel truly listened to, often for the first time. 

“The loss of a parent is a traumatic loss for a child, putting children at risk for unhealthy and destructive ways of coping, and also internalizing their feelings, which wreaks havoc on them physically, emotionally and psychologically. The painful feelings associated with grief need to be discharged through talk and other modes of expression.

“Time alone does not heal the wounds of grief for children or adults. Centers like Imagine normalize grief and provide the opportunity for people to mourn their losses in healthy and constructive ways, opening the possibility that something good may come from something so painful—that good being personal growth, healthy coping skills, becoming more compassionate, which translates into service for others, and stronger more resilient communities.”

Event sponsors for i Remember include: Ahrre's Coffee Roastery; Summit Medical Group's Behavioral Health and Cognitive Therapy Center; Distinctive Dentistry by David M. Weinman, DMD; Christine Cosenza of State Farm Insurance; and Tiffany Natural Pharmacy.

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