Center helps families find peace.
Imagine Moving Beyond Grief
For five nights, every two weeks, the Imagine facility is abuzz with families gathered together. From the light-hearted activities and atmosphere, the casual observer might not guess Imagine’s mission is to support families dealing with grief.
The New Jersey-based center’s Night of Support (NOS) program offers education and peer support to adults and children coping with the loss of a loved one. NOS is a free service, thanks in part to support from State Farm. Participants become more resilient and learn healthy ways to cope with difficult, painful feelings.
“We provide supper for families on all Nights of Support. They can be together, transition from their day, and have an evening where they don’t have to worry about getting dinner on the table,” says Imagine Executive Director Mary Robinson.
“There is an opening circle and a closing circle at each meeting. It reinforces to participants that they are not alone in their grief. This consistent ritual is an important part of the healing process,” continues Mary.
During the meeting, there are support group activities. Younger children choose from activities like arts and crafts, making music, or physical play and expression in the Volcano Room. They can also write, draw and talk with their peers and the volunteer facilitators. The older teens and parents spend time in their support group circle and talking.
“The key to adapting after a loss is expressing feelings of grief, whether in talk, play, art or other medium,” Mary says.
Claude Harmon is a NOS participant. His wife Kerry passed away in 2014. He attends Imagine with two of his three daughters, 13 year-old Nyah and 10 year-old Skai. Here is his story…
In 1986, I met the love of my life on the Long Island railroad. On a dare from her twin sister, Kerry sat next to me - a complete stranger - and asked what I was listening to on my Walkman. That chance meeting turned into a six-year courtship. We became husband and wife on August 28, 1993, and had three daughters.
Our family was active. Kerry and I shared in running the kids to different activities and each year took a wonderful family vacation. Kerry was an exercise buff and encouraged me to join her.
Unfortunately, our perfect world didn’t last. She received her cancer diagnosis on February 21, 2014. That also happened to be my 50th birthday.
She didn’t tell me of her diagnosis until the following day because she didn’t want to spoil my birthday. Instead, she called a limo to take us, and some friends, to dinner in New York City. She would do anything to keep a smile on our faces. She was the glue that held everything together.
Even after her diagnosis, she still ran. She made me join her for the Brooklyn half-marathon. She waited for me at the finish line on the Coney Island boardwalk - jumping up and down and encouraging me. She had plenty of time to wait because I finished almost 15 minutes after her!
Kerry worked for a prestigious law firm. She and her law partner, Michael, started at the firm together and spent 20 years building their reputations together. Michael, a dear friend and colleague, now shares in our loss. He feels like he lost a sibling.
Kerry transitioned about 19 months ago. She was a very spiritual person who never wavered in her faith.
Losing her was much heavier than any weight I ever lifted in my prime. My mother helped me take care of Kerry during her illness. Mom was planning to relocate to New Jersey to help take care of the girls when she had a stroke and passed away – just two months after Kerry.
Not in a million years would I believe such a terrible series of family tragedies could actually happen. Thankfully, we were already involved in Imagine and had an idea of how to deal with and channel our emotions. It comforts me and my daughters. The age-structured groups make it easier to express our feelings with people that may understand due to their own circumstances.
The Harmon family thanks God for Imagine. It has made a positive difference in our lives. I can’t think of a worthier cause to support.
On a side note, my brother works for State Farm. 15 years ago, he encouraged me to get adequate life insurance. If we didn’t take that advice, I wouldn’t be able to sustain the lifestyle Kerry and I built together.
I pray our story enlightens everyone to the wonderful work done at Imagine and encourages others to consider life insurance.