As the holidays grow nearer we all begin to take notice of our many blessings. This year on Facebook, I’ve been happy to see all the treasures and sentiments that my friends are thankful for, namely family, friends and health. The true spirit of life comes into focus during these blessed holiday months, and the world becomes just a little warmer.
For some, however, the holidays are a time of grief and mourning. The loss of a close family member can make these special times bittersweet, especially for children. Recently, I came across a charity out of Fort Worth, Texas called “The Warm Place.” The Warm Place is a non-profit organization that runs solely off the generous contributions of private donors. Its mission is to offer peer-led grief support to children from 3 1/2 all the way to 25 following the death of a close family member. With the help of counselors, children and parents attend regular peer support groups to assist them in their healing process.
In the Beginning
The Warm Place was started by Peggy Lee Bohme, a mother who was looking for support for her young daughter, Meghan, following the tragic death of their eldest son, Michael, to bone cancer in 1984 at the young age of only 14. After visiting the Dougy Center for Grieving Children in Portland, Oregon and learning how they helped young children, Peggy teamed up with Dr. John Richardson and spent five years in Texas raising money to finally open The Warm Place in 1989.
Who They Help
Their services are free and the families are encouraged to partake in a potluck dinner before their session begins. They use real plates, silverware, tables and chairs as they sit together as a family and enjoy a hot, home-cooked meal. Often, following the death of a family member, the family dinner is the first normal pattern to break. At The Warm Place, that ritual is reinstated. The families cook, clean, eat and talk just as they did before their loss.
Following dinner, the group comes together in a circle and passes a heart-shaped pillow around. Each person must verbally say who they lost and how they died. For children especially, the action of verbally saying that they lost a loved one time and again helps their realization that it’s true and that it’s not changing. This influential ritual is the first step to healing.
Finally, the groups break off. They are categorized by age and type of loss. This helps the peer-led therapy group work more effectively. They all have something in common, and they are all the same age, making it easier to discuss their feelings and experiences in an age appropriate manner.
This year, The Warm Place is in its 25th year of operation. They’ve helped over 30,000 children in their time and there is no end in sight. They remain dedicated to the children who are suffering a loss and have a wonderful program to help brighten the holidays for children who are missing a loved one this Christmas Season.
How You Can Help
For only $20 you can donate a personal call from Santa to a child you know who is grieving, or you can sponsor a child in need of some cheer. Your donation will not only help this great institution keep their doors open for free, but will bring magic back into the life a young child who is desperately in need.
Recently, a classmate of mine from high school passed away after a long fight against cancer. She left behind a beautiful daughter and a fighting legacy. My heart aches for her daughter, husband, family and friends. I can only hope that a call from Santa will lift her daughter’s spirits this Christmas, the first without her courageous mother. She was a daily source of inspiration to me these past years, and I know that her village will continue to rally around her daughter and keep her spirit alive. This season, let’s all be a courageous village and rally around children suffering from loss.
Who in your life could use a little extra cheer this holiday season?