It is my pleasure to introduce The Center for Grieving Children’s new Executive Director, Darcy Walker Krause. Darcy will take the helm from Rob Sheesley, the prior Executive Director and co-founder, who retired after nurturing the Center for 18 rewarding years.
Darcy was destined for her new role here. First, she understands the struggle of the youth we serve having lost her own mother when she was a teenager. It is this painful knowledge that gives her a passion for The Center and its critical mission. Her life has gifted her with the real desire to make a difference. Second, she has the skill set and drive to execute on her plans to grow The Center. Although she had started a different career path as a promising young attorney at Littler Mendelson in Philadelphia after graduating from Duke University Law School, she gave it all up to fulfill her dream. She enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and obtained a Master’s of Social Work. Upon graduation she served as the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Sibling Bereavement Project Coordinator at Peter’s Place in Radnor, PA.
We have big plans for The Center – growing our funding, growing the numbers of families we serve, and creating grief outreach groups that support all Philadelphia area schools and communities. We believe Darcy can fulfill these plans. Although we have been active in our city for many years, there are still too many suffering children in our community who need our services. Darcy is committed to taking The Center to the next level to better meet this need. Please take a moment to read Darcy’s welcome letter, also on our website, to see more about her plans for The Center.
I also want to take this moment to thank Rob Sheesley for his invaluable time at The Center. Rob founded The Center with his late colleague, Janis Keyser, in 1995 as a bereavement program for St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. Over the last 18 years, Rob has been the guiding light for the Center. I have worked with Rob for the last eight years and I know first-hand this job was always a labor of love for him. There was no one more committed to the children and their well-being. He was committed to his craft and touched many young lives who were in desperate need of help. How many of us can retire from a career knowing they have left a positive mark in the world? Rob certainly can. I would like thank him for all he has done and all he has given. We certainly wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement. We are also thankful he is only a phone call away when we need his guidance.
Board of Directors
Dear Friends and Supporters:
It is with great enthusiasm that I begin my work here at The Center for Grieving Children. Having lost my mother at 15, I know what it is like to feel like the only one, to need resources that are hard to locate and to carry that loss with you every day. In fact, the research shows that without interventions like The Center provides, children who lose a parent, sibling or caregiver are more likely to have difficulties in school, struggle with interpersonal relationships, and experience long term mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
The Center provides a safe place for grieving children to meet other kids and teens who have experienced a similar loss, process their grief, and develop resiliency and coping mechanisms with which to respond to their loss. As 8-year old Sameer told me at one of my first groups at The Center, “Before I came here, I thought I was the only person whose dad had died. After my first group here, I saw that there were other kids like me here and wanted to keep coming!”
We are at a watershed moment as an organization. We are in a new location, have new leadership, and want to see our work grow to reach more grieving children in the Philadelphia region. I am up to this task. I am working with our staff to develop marketing and outreach initiatives, so that the new community in which we are located as well as other areas of Philadelphia know we are here. I am also identifying partners with whom we can collaborate and identifying additional revenue streams for us to pursue to fund our programs. Finally, my Program Coordinator and I are developing a free 8-week grief outreach program that we are piloting this Spring at a local elementary school. We plan on expanding this program in the Fall to more schools in the Philadelphia School District and associated charter schools. We believe that this outreach work will expand the people who know of our organization and grow the number of grieving children we are able to reach.
It is an exciting time! I want to thank the Board of Directors for the opportunity to lead The Center and Rob Sheesley for founding and leading The Center to where it is today. Please feel free to give me a call, shoot me an email, or drop by to say hi. I look forward to meeting many of you. Thank you for your continued support!
Darcy Walker Krause
PS: Please remember that there are many ways to give to The Center. There are traditional means, such as donations, but we are always looking for volunteers to help facilitate groups, offer additional hands for office-related tasks, and help us plan special events!
Please check out our Fall Fest 2012 sponsors! Our event was a huge success and we could not have done it without them, so show them your support!
At our weekly staff meeting yesterday we began with a check-in time concerning the Newtown tragedy and how heavily it weighs on us. After sharing our personal reactions, we looked at each other and with our eyes speaking louder than words we in unison began “what do we want to say to our children and families? In the face of helplessness, what can we say? What can we do?”
So to families, school staff, neighbors and to all of Newtown, CT., we say “we are painfully aware that we grieve with you. We send not just our sympathy, but our compassion and hope for your healing. We are connected to you and all who are wounded by this and other tragedies of violence. We pray for your healing and healing for all peoples.”
What do we say beyond that? Well, there are numerous “how to talk to your children” resources in the aftermath of the horrific shooting, but of course there is no “one approach serves all” when dealing with children. Each child will respond according to his/her age, personality, family background, previous experience with tragedy and world view. It is most important to be present – listen to and observe the ways each child is working through the tragedy and then work to include and support them.
A few thoughts to adults on supporting our children through a difficult time:
1. Take care of yourself first. As a parent and grandparent I know that I carry a lot of feelings, perceptions and biases that I don’t want to project on children. I need to be aware of the difference between what I need to do vs. knowing, seeing and recognizing what children in my care really need in order to handle the crisis. How do I deal with the intense feelings of sadness, outrage, anger and despair? I need to be aware of my “stuff” so as to not let it ooze into my professional or personal role with children. I need to allow myself to mourn, to feel what I feel, and to curse the darkness. I need to be present to my beating heart.
2. Listen, listen, listen. Not just with our ears, but with our hearts. What are our children feeling, thinking and saying? How will each child find his/her way through this? Check in with your child and be available to them. Be present with them, but let them lead what they want to talk about or if they even want to talk at all. Listen without judgment. Don’t assume that they need the same level of “dealing with it” as you do.
3. Limit the amount of exposure your children have to news and repeated images of the tragedy. While children do need honest answers and information, too much media hype can increase levels of fear and anxiety.
4. Provide a sense of security and give extra attention to being re-assuring. We can’t make claims that are not true, like “I can protect you from anything bad ever happening.” However we can talk honestly about what we can do to be safe and secure. Balance the tragedy with reminders of the positive parts of life. By all means be honest with them. And, most importantly…love them.
5. Check in periodically to let them know that you care about how they are doing. Watch for red flags and seek help if they seem to be potentially harmful to themselves to others, or if after many months they still seem overwhelmed with the incident or if they are not getting back to their normal routines, attitudes and activities.
Molly Fumia, a bereaved parent, wrote years ago something that keeps me going. It reads:
“Surprisingly enough, we are more than sorrow.
We are breath and beating heart.
We are spirit resilient, and possibilities simply unexplored.”
December 17, 2012
Rob Sheesley, Executive Director
The Center for Grieving Children
Thursday, February 7th 2013 from 4:00-6:30pm
We will examine how hidden loss can undermine psycho-social development, performance, and success; how to recognize signs and symptoms of grief; how to understand the grieving process (including adult grief). Appropriate interventions will be identified to help prevent unhealthy patterns of expressing their grief. And, we will look at how the professional care giver cares for oneself when working with grief and loss. This program is for school personnel, social workers, counselors, nurses, chaplains and volunteers. A certificate of attendance will be provided and ACT 48 credits are available for PA educators.
Faculty: Rob Sheesley, M.Div., CT
Director, The Center for Grieving Children
REGISTRATION IS $40 – due by January 30, 2013
This Program will be held at The Center for Grieving Children
3300 Henry Avenue, Suite 110, Philadelphia, PA 19129.
267-437-3123 phone 267-437-3206 fax