Who We Are
One of my most memorable moments of my childhood was becoming an aunt; I was so excited when my sister gave birth to my first nephew. I was just nine years old and I immediately was in love with that tiny little person. Within the next three years, two more little bundles of joy would arrive. I spent every spare moment helping my sister to care for her family. Who would have known that just eight years later my sister would be taken away from her family by death, leaving behind her treasures here on earth?
One beautiful summer afternoon, my husband Rich and I were at our church picnic at a nearby YMCA camp. We decided to take a walk around the grounds, which included a walking trail through the woods. During this walk, I was thinking about how nice it would be to have my niece, Olivia, with us on this walk. Olivia had recently lost her mom (my sister). It was that thought that moved me so emotionally and inspired my vision to do something to care for children who were suffering the loss or absence of a loved one. Memories and emotions of more than 30 years ago came flooding back, reminding me of how difficult it was for my family to cope with my oldest sister’s death, and the lives of her three young children, and now another sister is gone leaving behind a much loved 10 yr. old daughter.
I knew I wanted to do something to help children and teens find love and support during this critical time. Personally, I know that even years later any unresolved grief remains an issue if not provided a healthy release or recognition.
My Oldest Sister
Elizabeth was 31 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died at the age of 34. Surviving were her three beloved children: Norman, 12; Lizzy, 11; and Chris, who was 8. Not only did these three children lose their precious Mom, but 6 weeks prior to her death their father made the decision that he could not handle the illness so he left; never to come back again to parent his children. This happened in 1981; I was only 21 but can still remember thinking how difficult it was going to be to help these kids deal with the tragic event of losing both parents-- their mom through death and their dad through abandonment. My parents certainly did the best they could without any known resources available to them. If there had been any grief care or support for children or teens available to them, I truly believe that it would have changed the trajectory of these three young lives in many ways, as well as changing the lives of the adults who loved and cared for them.
When a family loses a loved one, they need to be able to count on others around them to step in and offer ways of support. I can only wish that would have been our story.
As I continued on in my adult life, I was always searching for ways to be more prepared just in case something as devastating and life changing was to happen again. I trained to be a Hospice volunteer, I studied and completed a lay counselor course in my church, and I facilitated a support group called "Griefshare" for many years. However, there was nothing that addressed helping the children in a tangible way.
As I would find out once again, when you are the family trying to recover from losing a loved one and there is a child involved, support is crucial! It is hard to be there emotionally, physically and spiritually for the children when you are dealing with the stages of grief yourself.
Fast forward to 2010; by this time both my parents had died and we were faced with the terrible news that another sister had cancer. My sister Marianne, 53, a single mom to a 9 year old daughter, Olivia, who lived many states away, was diagnosed with 4th stage peritoneal cancer. We would face another battle with this ugly disease. I spent several weeks at a time being with my sister and my niece in Texas as we worked hard to beat this disease. Marianne always stayed positive and wanted nothing more than to parent her daughter into adulthood. My sister fought a year and a half long hard battle to stay alive before succumbing to death.
Both of my sisters were very brave through it all and wanted nothing more than to love and raise the children they adored.
Some Great News
Fortunately, now in 2013, there are grief support groups and camps dedicated to helping and supporting kids on this journey of grief and assisting them as they come to realize that they will eventually get to a place where they will discover a new normal, in a setting that puts them among peers who are experiencing similar life changing challenges.
Unfortunately, they are very limited in our part of South Jersey.
My Sisters' Kids is a grief support program to help children and teens in need of additional care in our communities. We want children and teens to have a place where healing can take place.
Isolation is an enemy to someone dealing with loss and walking the journey of grief is difficult. It is so important to find words and ways of expression unique to each individual. We want to help each one discover and develop their way through this process of grieving.
Will you join us in this vision to see our children be successful in their lives and pass on a legacy of healthy survival to the next generations? They all deserve it!
Meet the Founder
Founder & Executive Director