Aaron, Lisa and their youngest son Ben participated in Judi’s House programs after the death of their eldest son, Noah.
After the death of your son, Noah, how did you come to find Judi’s House?
Aaron: First of all, we have such a huge admiration for Judi’s House. Both Lisa and I are counselors in the public school system and we were aware of the Judi’s House program because we’ve referred students and their families who experienced loss to Judi’s House over the years. We’ve always known that Judi’s House has an amazing reputation for supporting families after a loss and have both seen firsthand the benefits for families who have participated in the program.
When our son Noah died in a hiking accident, we realized that we were going to need help processing our loss. We realized that we had a moral and ethical obligation to use all the tools at our disposal, and to find our way forward. We reached out to Judi’s House and began the Pathfinders program along with our younger son Ben.
What do you think makes Judi’s House so unique?
Aaron: Our younger son Ben really struggled after Noah’s death. We sent him to therapy and tried to be proactive in helping him through his grief journey. But we really saw the most progress and growth for Ben through the Judi’s House program. With the other kids, Ben found a common experience at Judi’s House. Judi’s House really felt like a safe space where there were other kids his age he could talk to. He learned how to process his grief and how to talk about his brother’s death without stigma and shame.
When we were in survival mode after Noah’s death, we knew we had Judi’s House on Thursday and we’d just try to make it to Thursday. Judi’s House was an oasis for us at that time. It was our beacon of light when we were in a place where the pain of loss was so great we felt we couldn’t survive another hour or even another minute.
Lisa: I can’t tell you how important it was to have Ben connect with other kids. He lost his only sibling and for him to meet other kids was really beautiful. It was so important for us and for Ben.
For Aaron and I, Judi’s House provided us solace and commonality. We found kinship with other families who were also coping with tragedies. We made friends. Our weekly visits to Judi’s House felt like we were entering into sacred space and time. Having Judi’s House as a place to go was really helpful, and because of that we stayed in the program for a long time.
It’s been about 5 years since you went through the program at Judi’s House, what value from that experience do you carry with you today?
Aaron: Yes, it has been about 4.5 years since we started the program at Judi’s House. We really realized how important it is to have a community that you can feel comfortable with, that you can really relate to, and share experiences with.
In addition, we live in a time when things can feel very dark. But the knowledge that there are amazing, dedicated staff and principled people doing such noble work at Judi’s House is really a comfort.
Lisa: I would add that Judi’s House is such an amazing program for individuals who experienced loss. You can’t really know until you do it. It was so vital to our healing. I think we are much better off having had the experience that Judi’s House gave us, I don’t know where we’d be without it. There are moments after experiencing loss that are really important and times when intervention is essential. Without the support of Judi’s House, I don’t know what the trajectory of our healing would have been.
Aaron: We still have relationships with people we met during our program. Meeting those people and having them in our lives is so vital for our continued wellbeing. As counselors we know group therapy is important. But to experience it first hand was so valuable for us. We still get together with the families we met at Judi’s House.
What is your hope for the future of Judi’s House?
Aaron: I think it’s really exciting that Judi’s House is building a new facility. If I had a hope for their future, it would just be for Judi’s House to continue to expand its services and reach. I hope they might grow and be available more broadly, and to more people who might not live within striking distance of their current location.
Beyond my family’s experience, I’ve watched students over the years who have experienced loss and how impacted these students are at school and in their lives. Grief support is such an important resource for communities. Every community experiences loss. Having Judi’s House as a resource is vital for families and I hope they continue providing services to the broader community.
Lisa: As a school counselor, I see how important it is to have grief training. Sadly, there is always someone impacted by grief. We see trauma growing at an exponential rate amongst students. Training for school counselors is incredibly important and essential. I hope Judi’s House can continue their work to train counselors which in turn will create more grief-informed communities.