Grief Counselor and Former Intern
Tell us what brought you to Judi’s House initially, how did you learn about the organization?
In 2009 my nine-year-old son died. One of the first things I did was go to the library with my other children in mind. I thought that we would read books together and talk through our grief. But when I got to the library, I did not find what I needed. I sat with the librarians and we cried with piles of books around us. There weren’t any books there that had what I needed to help my kids navigate their grief. I remember thinking – if it isn’t here, then I will find a way to create it.
I heard about Judi’s House from my children’s school psychologists and social workers. Several of my children, my mother, and I participated in the Pathfinders program and then the Connections program for a long time thereafter. When we finished our programs, I followed Judi’s House on social media and continued to pay attention to what the organization was doing. I anticipated that I would want to return to the organization in some sort of different capacity when the time was right.
When I went back to school to earn my master of social work degree, I decided I really wanted to get involved with Judi’s House again. Judi’s House was one of the organizations where I could apply for my second year master’s program internship. I knew I wanted to find a program that married working with children and with grief, so it felt like a perfect fit. I was very excited to be selected to work at Judi’s House for my internship.
After I finished my internship and earned my degree I knew I wanted to continue to work with Judi’s House. I officially became a grief counselor last October.
What do you think makes Judi’s House so unique?
Judi’s House is unique in the opportunity the organization provides for people to find connection. The idea of connection is on the website and it’s in the mission and vision, but it is also what you feel the moment you walk through the doors. When you are a parent of grieving children it can feel really isolating. Other parents don’t have the shared experience of what it is like to be grieving or to be a parent to a grieving child. They just don’t have that filter and understanding of how that changes things for you and for your child.
To walk through the doors of Judi’s House and to find other parents and kids going through the same thing is very comforting. That shared experience creates connection.
What impact do you see with the families served by Judi’s House?
When families are served by Judi’s House, there are a lot of different areas of impact. One of the most significant moments for families is when they realize they are not alone, that others share some part of their story. That realization is very empowering.
People feel empowered to tell their own stories. And once they get comfortable telling their story within the Judi’s House home, they feel they can also begin to share it beyond our walls. The more you can share your grief story, the more you can find connection, and as a result, the more you can cope. When we keep things like our grief inside, it becomes hard to cope with things outside. People develop depression and anxiety. When people start to share and find coping tools, it positively impacts their ability to navigate the world.
Do you have a favorite memory or story that you could share from your experiences with Judi’s House?
One favorite memory is when Judi’s House moved to its new home location. I had the opportunity to bring my family members to tour the house. I brought my kids and my mother and we walked all through the new building. We went into one of the group rooms with the bean bag chairs and we all sat down for a moment. I facilitate groups in these rooms now and I asked my family to take a moment to check in and share how they are doing. My children are grown now, they were tiny people and didn’t remember all the details of their time at Judi’s House when they lost their brother. But what they did remember is how safe they felt at that time and how Judi’s House was a place where they could openly share their feelings. It was a really powerful moment and brought our Judi’s House experience full circle. The body remembers that feeling of comfort from a place, it was really nice to remember that feeling.
What is your hope for the future of Judi’s House?
I have many hopes for Judi’s House. I hope we can continue to expand our services, to improve access to what we have at Judi’s House, and to serve a greater diversity of clients. More families coming through our doors means more children will have the tools they need to better navigate the world in a healthy way. In turn, that means there will be more adults who have the skills to navigate the world in a healthy way. This support will impact their communities and impact the world. We know that everyone experiences grief at some point in their lives, it would be amazing if we could continue to broaden our net.
Personally, I hope to create my own corner of impact. I hope that someone will walk in the building and see me and see someone who looks like them. I hope someone will feel that their clinician understands exactly where they are. For me, working at Judi’s House is deeply personal and incredibly professional. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to live out both.