At the age of ten years old, I lost my dad. I didn’t know at the time, but I think I had to endure this so that I could help others. At the age of 15, I created a program called Love Never Dies: Offering Hope after Grief. I went to elementary schools with videos created by Sesame Street Workshop that showed Elmo experiencing the loss of his uncle and how he deals with his grief. I shared the story of my loss, and little by little the children would begin to share theirs. Although some of these days ended in tears, I had parents reach out to me sharing how this helped their children, and I could tell it was helping me, too. I had never fully talked about my own grief, and now I was doing it often.
After going to college and then coming to law school at Emory University, I knew that I wanted to continue to pursue that same passion. I researched organizations that helped grieving children online, and I found Kate’s Club. I was instantly hooked. I sent in my application immediately, and attended the first orientation possible. The first clubhouse day, I was there. It was amazing.
On my first day, I was paired with the five- and six-year-olds. That should give you one indication of how crazy the day was. They were so full of energy, but so cute and loving. Most of these children just needed a hug, or to just discuss a few details of their loss because they are so young that they are just now understanding that their loved one is gone for good. One little girl, however, openly discussed the death of her father when we started the morning activity. She said that she wished she could grow wings like a butterfly (they really picked up on the butterfly idea with the theme of “Everything has changed”) to join him in heaven. It resonated with me that they weren’t that much younger than I was when I lost my dad, and that they would have to spend most of their life without a parent or a sibling that they never expected to lose.
I think it’s a shock to the system to lose someone so young. Life is supposed to be perfect when you are a child. The worst thing that is supposed to happen is that someone doesn’t pick you to be on their team in gym class. Then suddenly, everything has changed. Kate’s Club showed me that it’s possible to address this grief in children at an early age, so that it doesn’t one day control their life. I’ve already signed up for the winter outing, the next clubhouse days, the family support meeting, and the family orientation. It’s not about sharing my story anymore, although I will. It’s about hearing theirs and helping them realize that one day they can use their story to help others.