Written by Lane Pease, Kate’s Club Program Director
At Kate’s Club, we have implemented 4-week, closed support groups in the last couple of years. Closed means that the same people participate for 4 weeks. We have special topics for these groups, and the whole family participates. We have had a teen and parent group, sibling loss groups, and suicide and homicide loss groups. In 2017, we have added a new family formations group to our schedule. The families do some activities together and divide into age groups for others.
During these groups, I have experienced some of the most powerful times of my career at Kate’s Club. In these groups, I see what I see frequently at Kate’s Club that is connection and support. However, I see it more intensely as trust and understanding is built with the same participants over the course of 4 weeks. Who better to offer hope to a parent grieving a child than a parent who is also grieving a child, but is further along in the journey? Who better to cry and laugh with when discussing the insensitive comments made to suicide survivors than other suicide survivors? I watched teens and their parents journal back and forth for our group learning that it is sometimes easier to write about how they feel than to talk. I listened to children who have lost a sibling share how each room in their house has changed for them. I saw both children and adults have “light bulb” moments as they learned the myths and misconceptions surrounding suicide grief. I saw these same members burn letters to their loved ones in a bowl while letting go of some of the anger, guilt, and shame they felt. I watched a girl write a letter to her mother’s murderer expressing her anger and fear. I have seen divorced parents work with their son on a “family shield” that honored their son who died while looking at the strengths of the family that remained.
At the end of one the group sessions I ended with a ritual called “Today I learned…Tomorrow I hope…”. We pass a rose and take a pedal or put the paper hands we have decorated on a poster board together. One of the most common things I hear is “Today I learned that I am not alone” or “Today I learned that I can feel better” or “Today I learned this was not my fault”. I also hear “Tomorrow I hope I can continue to heal” or “Tomorrow I hope I can help others” among many other comments. I learn something every time I lead a Kate’s Club group. Here are some of the things I have learned: the courage of parents and children to move forward in the face of devastating loss, the incredible love family members have for one another, and the love, support, and comfort, that relative strangers can offer one another. Tomorrow I hope that those grieving alone will reach out for help, that those further down the road will reach back to help someone, and most of all that Kate’s Club will continue to be the healing community that people need. I wish you peace in the new year.
For more information about programs, including these 4-week long quarterly support groups, contact Lane Pease at email@example.com or call 404-347-7619.
There are many opportunities to volunteer for Kate’s Club. You can volunteer as an individual or as a team, in an administrative capacity as Clubhouse Support, in a programmatic capacity as a Buddy or by adopting a meal, or at one of our annual special events! We have corporate volunteer opportunities, as well. In 2016, Intercontinental Hotels Group employees came to the Clubhouse to help with the Spirit of Kate’s Club Gala and Clubhouse tasks: building our picnic tables and putting bicycles together for the Gala auction.
However, you don’t even have to come to our Clubhouse, even though you should definitely consider stopping by, to be a Kate’s Club volunteer. This past year, Debra Brook, our Volunteer and Program Manager, brought activities to Salesforce and Starbucks corporate employees. Salesforce drew trees for our Kindness Tree outreach activities, and Starbucks made all of the pinwheels for Memory Walk.
If you are interested in any of our volunteer opportunities or think your organization or business may be, please visit our volunteer website or email Debra Brook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our volunteers dedicate their time in many different ways, but the volunteer who volunteered the most overall hours (195.5 hours to be exact) and our official 2016 Volunteer of the Year, is Elisabeth Bletsch. Thank you for your time and effort put toward supporting Kate’s Club!
Everyone has their own unique story to tell. At Kate’s Club, we know that all of our members have experienced the death of a parent or sibling, but each member’s story is their own. The following is an interview of one of our Kate’s Club members reflecting on the death of their brother.
Interviewer: Tell me about what you’ve accomplished that makes you proudest.
KC member, age 9: I think my proudest accomplishment so far is… passing third grade, because the Georgia Milestones test was hard.
Interviewer: What do you see in yourself that reminds you of your brother?
KC member, age 9: Playing soccer. We always went to the park, and sometimes we’d play tennis because there were tennis courts too. I’d say my brother was the better soccer player – he had better tricks. He taught me how to flip the ball over other people and how to pass the ball a little straighter.
Interviewer: Who is your best friend and why?
KC member, age 9: In school, his name is Marquis, he’s funny and helps me out with group work.
Interviewer: Who in your family has lived the most interesting life?
KC member, age 9: My mom. She’s nice, kind, and cares about me. Yes, she’s pretty special.
KC member, age 9: When my brother was in the hospital, no matter what they did to him, he said he was alright. That’s what I miss most about him. That he would never give up.
Interviewer: What are some lessons you’ve learned in life?
KC member, age 9: Share with others. Be kind. Be respectful. Be nice.
Interviewer: If you could use one word to describe your brother, what would it be?
KC member, age 9: Strong
Interviewer: How would you like people to remember you?
KC member, age 9: I think… playful.
Mica Davis and Adam Tessler are the married, volunteer dream team that can be found at the Clubhouse on any given Clubhouse day. Their dedication to our mission always goes above and beyond. We interviewed them to find out more about what brought them to Kate’s Club, the moments at Kate’s Club that impacted them as Buddies, how they met, and how Kate’s Club plays a role in their relationship.
What brought you to Kate’s Club?
Mica: I learned about KC through a client of mine. I am a play therapist, and realized I HAD to find out about this place! I got to know the great people at KC and decided that I wanted to spend time there too. It became a second home and oddly enough I describe it to other’s as my “happy place”. There are not a lot of things that will get me up before 9 on the weekend, but I will gladly get up for my KC family!
Adam: Frankly, Mica brought me to Kate’s Club. I mentioned to her several weeks before we started that I wanted to spend some time working with kids in the area and she had a client who needed Kate’s Club. I suppose you could say that Mica and I have been on our Kate’s Club journey together (with her leading mostly)
How long have you been involved with Kate’s Club?
Mica a little over 2 years. Adam a little less than Mica but probably close to 2 years.
Can you recall a moment when you experienced the true impact of Kate’s Club?
Mica: This is going to sound cliché, but every single time I come to Kate’s Club I leave a better person because of the KC family. It’s like the feeling you get when you are finished with a massage or therapy session. Specifically, my experience with the 5 year old boys at camp was life changing. It was not only their first time at Camp, but mine as well. Learning together at grief camp is a powerful thing.
Adam: I totally can remember. I knew the impact I was making with the kids but the true overall impact of KC hit me last October/November. I had just buried my grandmother who was my best friend (after Mica of course) and I was really out of sorts. I volunteered the week after I returned from her funeral and went on an outing to Piedmont Park with the teens. Several of the teens asked why I was so quiet and not my normal self. I explained why and, of course, they all got it! They put their arms around me and explained how they were there for me just like I was for them. It hit me and helped me express, understand and master my own grief journey.
Tell us the story of when you two met. Has volunteering at Kate’s Club affected your relationship in any way?
Mica: We met on JDate! We had been communicating only through emails for about a month, before I couldn’t take it anymore and HAD to meet him in person! So we met up in person and have been together ever since!
Adam: Volunteering at Kate’s Club has changed our relationship for the better in 2 key ways. First, it gives us one more thing to be dually passionate about and more to talk about. The second way it has helped is a bit more selfish and complex. See, Mica has always understood and been great with kids of all ages, me not so much. Working with Kate’s Club has opened both of us up to a new discovery of very complex emotions dealing with one of the most difficult things to handle in life. It has made us both stronger and better so we can take on the world and spread a positive message, together.