A few days before Zoe passed away, we were told by several people at the hospital that we should check out the Dougy Center for Londyn. The Dougy Center is a non-profit organization that helps children grieve and cope with the death of a family member. The organization is staffed with volunteers that facilitate groups divided by age. Londyn's group of kids are aged 3-5 years old and meet every other Wednesday for about 1.5 hours.
The Dougy Center just opened a brand new home and we were the first group to ever meet there.
This is the room specifically for Londyn's group. The kids start out on these cushions with a stuffed animal and from what little I know, the kids are given a chance to talk about their loved one that has died. I don't know much because the parents go to their own group upstairs.
They have lots of themed play rooms with musical instruments, arts and crafts, planes-trains-automobiles, dollhouse and castle, kitchen and even a hospital.
After our groups are finished, we all meet in the lobby and then the kids have a snack in the kitchen.
Londyn loved her first experience at the Dougy Center. As you can see, she was thoroughly tuckered out!
I was very hesitant about the parents group session. I had no idea what to expect of the Dougy Center, so I was a little concerned when I discovered I wouldn't be with Londyn the whole time. I sat in a room with parents and grandparents who had also lost a child or spouse to cancer or other terminal illness and surprisingly, even more to suicide. It was definitely an eye opening experience. I am used to sitting and chatting with other parents. But I have never sat in a room filled with only parents with a recent death in common. Some of them seemed numb, angry and even physically ill as a result to their loss.
My usual chatty and social self was hiding behind the emotions that I tried so very hard to control. But it didn't last for long because in the first 5 minutes, we had to go around the circle and say our name, who died and who our child was that we brought with us. My plan to fly under the radar was out the window when it was my turn and I couldn't even open my mouth without my voice cracking and tears welling up in my eyes. I knew at that moment that it was going to be a very long hour and a half.
After listening to others explain their day to day grief and especially how they coped over the holidays, I found a sense of relief in this new place of strangers. My initial discomfort lessened and I felt like I could really express my deepest thoughts about the death of my daughter. I didn't have to worry about them being concerned about my mental/emotional state or muster up the energy to comfort them over my loss. Even though the deaths they were grieving weren't the same situation as mine, I felt an unexpected relief in the unfortunate fact that they have probably felt the same or very similar.
My initial goal was to help Londyn find some clarity and freedom to express the death of her sister. Little did I know, I would be finding the same.
Lulu has been asking about the Dougy Center for days now and we look forward to going back tomorrow.