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Imagine was born in my heart over 40 years ago when I received the following note from a neighbor after the death of my father when I was 14 years old:
I don’t know if this was the only sympathy card I received from an adult after my father’s death, but it is the only one I 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.
These are the messages grieving children need from adults. Parents, teachers and adults often ask us “what should I say” or “what should I do” when a child they know has experienced a painful loss. We say give them your love. Give them your time. Give them 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.
The day my father died I was out shopping for a get well card for him with two of my friends. Though I had been told by my mother it would “take a miracle for daddy to come home from the hospital,” I never doubted we would get that miracle.
I always thought of this as an example of being in denial but then my mother pointed out to me that it was also an example of hope, of all of our hopes – that daddy would come home. And without hope, none of us could go on in the face of the world’s suffering.
As adults it is our job to help children navigate life’s painful losses and create loving, supportive communities in which children can mourn their losses in healthy ways. That is the work of Imagine and all the centers like it around the country. That is the work I continue to be blessed and privileged to be part of along with the staff, volunteers and Board of Trustees of Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss.
Dr. Gerald Glasser was the catalyst for the start of Imagine in Westfield, wanting to insure that no child should ever have to grieve alone. In 2011 he invited me to come to Westfield and open a grief support center providing an initial grant for startup funding through The Glasser Foundation, a philanthropic organization set up in memory of Dr. Glasser’s son, Thomas Glasser, who was a victim of the 9/11 attack. The Thomas Glasser Foundation continues to provide extraordinarily generous annual support to Imagine.