While Covid-19 brought our traditional overnight grief camp to a screeching halt, it birthed a beautiful new program, Grieving Families Healing Together. Each session allows grieving families the opportunity to connect virtually, be playful, and learn new skills and techniques to communicate and cope with their feelings and thoughts of grief. For brief periods of time, this program tempered the isolation and loneliness of grieving during a pandemic.
In 2021, we offered six new workshops designed to help families remember and honor loved ones who have died. The sessions included Creative Drama and Resiliency, Drumming for Healing, Using Art to Explore Grief and Healing, Open Mic: Writing to Remember, Mindful Movement: Gentle Yoga and Mindful Breathing, and Family Cooking: Finding Grief and Healing in the Kitchen. The virtual workshops attendees consisted of 19 adults and 21 children from 13 families.
In the comfort of their homes, families created expressive tableaus, built their drums for playing, wrote memory poems, created memory wooden plaques, engaged in mindful breathing and yoga poses, and made soft pretzels and two-ingredient cookies from scratch. Each family received a care package via mail filled with necessary supplies for specific workshops.
Every session started by inviting families to communicate their feelings, explore what grief means to their family, resiliency, or coping strategies. The closing ritual of each workshop gathered caregivers close to the screen for a virtual high five—a moment of intentional validation, mutual support, and acknowledgment of the challenges of grieving as an adult and parenting a grieving child.
Nearly all participants who responded to post-workshop surveys shared that the sessions helped their family explore their grief and felt the workshops were valuable in helping their family honor their loved ones and their grief. Some of their comments include: “We enjoyed the yoga which helped us to release some tension and to relax,” “We absolutely love the drama program. Thanks for making this available.”, “The drumming workshop was wonderful and very supportive. Thank you! We so much enjoyed it!”, and “The art workshop was fantastic! Really enjoyed this grief expression.”
Thank you to all of our generous donors, 2021 volunteer fundraisers, Arena Stage Outreach and Education Team, Wendt Center staff (WC), percussionist Josh Robinson, art therapist Jordan Potash, trauma-informed yoga instructor Kristine Franklin (WC), writer and open mic facilitator Laurie Blair (WC), and cooking enthusiast Stephanie Handel (WC) for making this program a success.
Please take a few moments to watch this powerful video about Grieving Families Healing Together, a Wendt Center program which YOU make possible.