After searching in card stores and online for sympathy cards designed for children and teens and not finding any, Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss decided to make its own. It invited participants in its programs to come in and work with local artist, Sara Lowry, to design the covers and spoke with children and teens who had experienced the death of a parent or sibling about what words they would most want to read inside a sympathy card.
The collaboration produced seven cards in what is intended to be a new line of greeting cards and other items more suited to the grieving process of children than what is ordinarily available. Imagine is now selling the cards on its website. Any proceeds from the sale of the cards will benefit Imagine grief support programs.
The underlying idea for the project is very personal to Imagine Founder and Executive Director Mary Robinson of Madison, whose father died when she was 14. At the time, she received the following sympathy card:
“Dear Mary, I am so sorry for your great loss. I always think unhappy times are the hardest for young people to bear. But I think they have a way of making one grow up with a lot more compassion. The thing that helps me feel better when I’m sad is to think that nothing – feelings or situations – good or bad, last forever. Take Care. Sincerely, Eleanor Schenck.”
“I don’t know if this was the only sympathy card I received from an adult after my father’s death, but 42 years later it is the only one I have kept. It is yellowed and well-read. I held on to it like a lifeline, for it gave me hope that something good could come out of something so incomprehensible and painful,” said Robinson.
The good that eventually came from Robinson’s loss was the creation of two New Jersey grief support centers for children and a life now dedicated to providing children and teens the support they need following any painful loss.
Inspired by the way Mrs. Schenck’s card spoke to the sadness in young Mary Robinson, these cards say to grieving young people:
- I see you
- Your loss matters
- Your sadness won’t last forever
These are the messages grieving children need from adults.
Parents, teachers and family friends often ask “What should I say?” or “What should I do?” when a child they know has experienced a painful loss. At Imagine we say give them your love, your time, your attention. Give them your optimism that they will get through this. And let them lead the way. They will show you what they need.
“It is our hope these cards will let children and teens coping with loss know they are not alone in their grief,” says Robinson.
Imagine is a free year-round peer grief support center located in Westfield, New Jersey serving all of Union County and beyond. Its services are provided free of charge and year-round. Imagine serves children age 3-18 who have had a parent or sibling die, with concurrent support groups for their parents or guardians. Support is also available for children and teens living with a parent or sibling with a life-altering physical illness . Free year-round support groups are also available for adults 18 and up who have had a friend, sibling, parent or other important person in their life die, or who have a parent, sibling or friend living with an illness.
Here is just an example of one of the cards in our store. It was made by Kelly Greiner, age 14 of Chatham. Kelly’s dad Joe and brother Jack volunteer at Imagine.