Luminaries lit the way to a brighter future as Imagine a Center for Coping with Loss hosted its first "I Remember" event held Thursday, Nov. 15.
The evening of hospitality, healing and hope drew a large crowd yet each guest had the opportunity to take a moment to remember a loved one who has passed away while sharing the fellowship of others on the same journey.
"Grief is universal," said Connie Palmer, LCSW, clinical and training director at the center which opened in May and offers free, year-round peer support groups for children age 3 and up, and for adults of all ages.
The center serves people coping with loss due to death and, in 2013, will begin support programs for children, families and individuals coping with terminal and chronic illness.
David Payne said the center has been an integral part of children's adjustment after losing their mom.
"The people have been fabulous and so helpful," said the father of two. "And not just the people who work here; in our group, everyone is so supportive. My children talk about it all the time. They make sure we come, even during the storm two weeks ago, they insisted.
"They look forward to doing the creative take-home projects. My daughter is an artist and it helps her so she remembers and doesn't forget (her mother)."
Facilitator Charles Jones said one of the things he enjoys most about volunteering at the center is the chance to see children relate to their peers.
"It's such a unique experience because you see the kids in their natural environment and they open up," Jones said. "It's contagious. They listen; they try to encourage one another. It's especially nice to see how supportive they are. People think kids today are just caught up in their handheld devices. It's great to see this caring group."
Another aspect of volunteering that Jones appreciates is the support he's received from Palmer and executive director and founder Mary Robinson.
"Sometimes it can be hard for children to talk to their family member," said Palmer. "It can be easier for them to do that here, with their peers."
"Everything that happens at Imagine, stays at Imagine," Jones laughed.
"We try to make it fun," said Palmer, who added that because so many children have lost fathers, it is wonderful to see them enjoy and respond to a male facilitator. She added that youth facilitators will also begin helping out at the center soon.
Following a program that included song, verse and a reading of names of those gone but not forgotten, guests enjoyed refreshments and coffee donated by Ahrre's Coffee Roastery.
Coinciding with National Children's Grief Awarness Day, earlier Thursday Imagine, together with members of The Friends of Mindowaskin Park and the Westfield Town Council, broke ground on a remembrance garden to be planted in the park.
"We had a great turnout," said Robinson, who brought the idea to the Town Council several months ago.
The following local businesses sponsored the event: 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.
To learn more about Imagine, consider attending one of the upcoming tour dates:
Nov 14, 2012 Noon – 1 p.m.
Dec 6, 2012 8 – 9 a.m.
Dec 12, 2012 Noon – 1 p.m.