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Former Program Participant

Joni Jackson and her family

Joni Jackson and her two sons participated in Judi’s House programming after the loss of Joni’s husband and the boys’ father.

Judi’s House: What brought you to Judi’s House initially and how did you learn about Judi’s House?

Joni Jackson: I made my way to Judi’s House after the loss of my husband. I had been living in France with my husband and two boys. He was a French mountain guide and disappeared in January 2005 while climbing Aconcagua, one of the highest peaks in Argentina. The local guides conducted search and rescue for many days, but never found him. Because he was never found, I never had a definitive closure after his death and pushed through his initial absence in a state of denial. My boys were only ages three and seven at the time.

After some time, I decided to move to Denver to be near my sister. I had visited a few times with the boys during summer holidays, so Colorado felt somewhat familiar to us. Once we moved, I realized I needed grief support to help me continue to cope with the loss of my husband.  Many of the “widow” groups I found were really more geared towards older adults who had lost their spouse much later in life. I eventually stumbled upon Judi’s House and immediately was able to absorb much information from the website. The boys and I started going once a week and stayed in the programs for about three years on and off.

What did you experience during your three years with Judi’s House?

As kids grow and reach new milestones in their development, the grief process has a tendency to start all over again with the new awareness they gain for the nature of their loss. It really helped get the boys to a stable place and was amazing for all of us. 

By the end we were the veterans in the group. We really found peace and meaning by looking so deeply at our experience and what it meant for our family. My experience at Judi’s House led me to my current life passion and work as a hospice social worker. 

What do you think makes Judi’s House so unique?

There is such an energy, love, empathy and compassion at Judi’s House that is very rare and unique. We live in such a death-avoidant society. Most people don’t even want to talk about the “nice” or “peaceful” deaths, and there really is no safe space to address traumatic forms of death.  Judi’s House gave us all a place to feel like we fit in. We really felt that we belonged there. For kids, that feeling of belonging and “fitting in” is really important. Kids don’t want to feel like they are “different” because of the trauma they’ve experienced. We felt like we were very supported during our grief journey. 

It’s been a few years since you went through the program at Judi’s House, what value from that experience do you carry with you today?

We really valued every moment of our experience with Judi’s House and have tried to find ways to give back as a family. In years past,  we have volunteered by providing dinner before the group sessions. My boys still feel a connection to Judi’s House and understand that grief is an ongoing process. 

I really appreciate the foresight of the team at Judi’s House in creating special grief programming for kids. Judi’s House acknowledges that childhood bereavement has a special place and that kids need their own special type of support after a loss. My boys are who they are today because they had the Judi’s House experience. Judi’s House allowed them to process and work through their grief in a safe place. 

As my boys got older, I decided to go back to school to get my masters degree in social work with a focus on grief and loss. I participated in the Judi’s House training program to be a companion volunteer, and as such, I participated in group therapy sessions with the children and helped them go through the Judi’s House programming. As part of my masters program, I did one of my internships with Judi’s House where I was able to learn the clinical side of grief, loss, and supporting others. Today, I work in the world of hospice. 

What is your hope for the future of Judi’s House?

I would love to see Judi’s House maximize their capacity to reach as many families as possible who need this type of support. They are already well on their way with the new building. I loved the old house, but the organization needs more room to grow and serve families. Having that physical space to allow conversation around grief and childhood bereavement is so important. I hope Judi’s House continues to grow and reach more people while keeping their focus on the whole-family grieving process

The magic of Judi’s House is giving children the ability to identify with other kids who are in a somewhat similar boat. It is so important for kids to have the opportunity to hear from other kids that are going through a similar experience. No family and no child is made to feel alone, emotionally or socially at Judi’s House. 

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