Many of us have not been strangers to grief and loss this year – having weathered the intensely personal mourning which accompanies the death of a loved one, perhaps in the aftermath of an extended – or unexpected – illness of a family member or friend. Still others may know those who suffered in the wake of Hurricanes Florence then Michael; the wildfires in California, or the devastating, multiple gun violence tragedies throughout our nation.
As hard as these experiences and losses are on any given day, those stricken with grief feel a sense of loss magnified during the holiday season. Christmas and the observance of Chanukah highlight a time in which so many around us are preparing for festive gatherings. This celebratory “vibe” can be particularly challenging, more so if this time of year is a “first” without a loved one near.
Avow Cares is a local not-for-profit organization which offers services to those experiencing the aftermath of loss, during the
holidays and year-round. Part of its mission is summarized thus: “You matter… Avow cares. When you’re challenged by illness, caregiving or loss, Avow is here to offer you loving care and professional guidance.” Of note, the organization has expanded services to attend to the mental health and well-being of our youngest Life in Naples residents, serving children as young as 5 in programs overseen by Avow Kids.
The Avow campus has created a “grief cave” for children to use as needed, with soft lighting, music (via headphones), and art
stations. This serves our local children and teens up to age 17. Teachers or counselors can make a referral on behalf of a student, or a student can make a self-referral. An inaugural “Camp MendingHeart” retreat took place this past November (Nov. 30 – Dec. 2). The weekend overnight camp participants ranged in ages from 7 to 15; and was facilitated by Avow bereavement professionals.
Regular therapeutic programs at Avow Kids include those overseen by a Certified Music Therapist as well as a Mastered
Prepared Art Therapist. They work with children and teens in settings apart from traditional counseling and Licensed Clinical
Social Workers are also on staff to assist in that vein. A major point to underscore is that there is no charge for the Avow Kids programs. This enables all families to be served as children overcome the challenges of loss.
Avow’s website (avowcares.org) also contains a comprehensive list offering Grieving Support Resources in Collier County.
Another link to this guide is at: http://www.safehealthychildren. org/grieving-support-resources/Avow has served our community for 35 years in the areas of hospice care, non-hospice palliative care, grief support, caregiver support, veterans services and children’s services. Perhaps you know someone who needs their support. Or perhaps you want to lend a hand?
Non-emergency inquiries can be directed to the organization online (through a “Contact Us” tab) or call 239.261.4404.
Noted author Martha Whitmore Hickman, who wrote “Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief ” (after the death of her teen daughter), stated that all of us, children and adults, must deal with grief honestly, “experiencing
its pain and anger for as long as we need to. Then and only then will we be able to incorporate the meaning of our loss into our
lives, and move ahead.” If you have questions or need support, AvowCares and AvowKids can be on that mindful journey.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP AVOW CARES AND AVOW KIDS:
1. Have a book drive in your neighborhood, clubhouse, or workplace. The Children’s Library is growing and needs donations of new (and gently used) books suitable for young ones & young adults-to-be.
2. Volunteer your time, ear, hands, talents. Patient visits? Help AvowCares at events. Bereavement outreach. There is a “High Needs” alert for hairdressers, singers, animal therapy (PAWS) volunteers, and, Veterans program assistance.
3. Donate! All contributions are tax deductible. There is a donate “button” on line or contact AvowCares by phone. The Treasures resale shop also needs gently used items for resale as well as volunteer workers.
For comments or suggestions with future topics for this column, please email: NaplesKCC@gmail.com or DM @naplesbythenumbers