Ben and Skyler joined Jeff’s Place following the death of their wife and mother, respectively. We invited them to share their story with our guests at our Second Annual House Party Celebration & Fundraiser and this is their experience:
“Loss is always hard, at least on some level. And, when a child is involved it is even more tragic. As for me, as a parent, and trying to navigate what I was sure at that time to be the pretty unique parental waters of a little girl and a moms long term illness left me openly asking for any suggestions from just about anybody I thought might have an insight, or fresh perspective. Professionals, friends, friends who are professionals, I think I even ventured a hazard at the cats one evening, I wasn’t proud or picky. After all, how does someone ask a child to process or deal with something many of us adults have trouble dealing with?
Wanting Skyler to have some level of a relationship established with a therapist before, what was becoming increasingly aware to her as the inevitable, Kris and I had started bring Skyler to a therapist when she was around five years old.
While I have nothing bad to say about those meetings we had, before or after, and I think the doctor we saw was quite good, other than they never seemed to get Skyler comfortable enough for her to want to speak about anything of substance. Whatever she was willing to say seemed as though it was more “the quick answer” or safe and easy. And at times, overly considerate of her dad’s feelings.
I had mentioned Jeff’s Place to Skyler one time. When I brought it up again, and she remembered that it was a place for kids who have lost a parent to meet, she asked, ‘And do what? Will you be there?’ Driving at the time, I explained what I remembered from the email and that I was not only going to be there, but also doing the same thing, and I thought we should check it out, which she agreed. I can’t remember if pizza helped seal the deal or not, but it certainly did not hurt!
Since her first visit, just over a year ago, then seven year old Skyler would remind me every other week, ‘Dada, we have Jeff’s Place this week.’ I still get those reminders although her “L’s” are more clearly pronounced.
To this day, after a year of attending almost every meeting, I can tell you how we start and finish our time there, but once the adults and kids split up, I can’t tell you exactly what they do up there. I know craft projects come down the stairs. I also know that the children are laughing and smiling when they come down and reconnect with us towards the end of our meetings after an hour of freely and openly talking about the parent they lost.
One thing that I have learned from my experience at Jeff’s Place is that no matter what the circumstances or conditions that surround a loss, regardless of the tragedy, or even how crazy you think some people (even family) can be during difficult times, through sharing of my experiences and hearing the experiences of others, it has given me a new perspective on loss and life; knowing that I am not alone and I am NOT the only one.
Something else I have learned with my involvement with organizations like Jeff’s Place, the Wildflower Foundation and Camp Erin, is that every child who goes through the loss of a parent feels exactly the same way. For our children to go from being ‘that kid’ at school or on the playground or wherever, and to enter a room where they are joined with a group of kids who are all going through the same thing, and to escape that feeling of aloneness well, it is in short, transformative!
I see these children go from being ‘that ONE kid’ in their respected environments to a feeling of togetherness and learning together, from and with one another, that they are or can be, no longer alone, but one.
Organizations like Jeff’s Place and many others exist solely because of your support. On behalf of every parent AND child who receives support from these incredible organizations I thank you and your support of Jeff’s Place. Thank You.”
And a big thank you to Ben and Skyler for fearlessly sharing their story of loss, hope, healing and renewal. Together, and through community, Jeff’s Place is building a support system of individuals who have loved and lost, but are not alone. Remember, hope grows here at Jeff’s Place!