The death of a loved one often leaves families feeling overwhelmed, not only with their grief, but also with the day-to-day activities in their lives. Struggling with their own feelings of grief, it is often difficult for the surviving parent to help their child cope with death, leaving the child to face their feelings of loss and pain alone.
At Common Ground, we provide peer support groups for children and teens who have experienced the death of a parent, primary caregiver, sibling or friend. We know that a safe, caring environment along with being in the presence of other children who have experienced similar losses helps them to feel less alone in their grief and more understood. This, in turn, fosters the healing process.
Any individual, corporation, foundation or community organization that invests financially in supporting Common Ground Grief Center is in essence, directly supporting the emotional well-being (both present and future) of every grieving child and teenager that we serve. Children, teens and their family members walk through our doors “broken.” I know this because I sit across from each and every one of them for an initial orientation before they begin one of our support groups. What I see happen months (or more often, years) later, is a transformation of and adjustment to a “new normal” that is sprinkled with hope. What we give families is love, compassionate listening, a sense of community, and a place where they can be with others who truly “get it” in a non-judgmental safe place. This, is the cornerstone of healing. We are also investing in the emotional health of the children and teens so they can grow into well-adjusted adults. We know that the death of a parent is a monumental adverse childhood experience and that if emotions are left unattended, they can lead to depression, anxiety, behavioral issues and substance use issues into adulthood. So what we provide at Common Ground, in addition to the aforementioned, is the hope of preventing these issues.
All this cannot be accomplished without the financial support of the very community who literally helps to keep our doors open. You see, we have no means of income other than those who believe in and invest in our mission. Those who invest in the mission are investing in the training of new volunteers (we are a mostly volunteer-led organization), art supplies to help children express their big emotions, special projects that assist with helping kids and teens never forget the memory of their person, and the leadership it takes to run such an organization.
Our organization never closed during the pandemic except for when we were literally forced to shut down for 3 months. Afterward, we surveyed our families and they told us they wanted and needed to come back to their little home in Manasquan. We found a way to do so in a safe manner and with little incident. We remained one of the only centers in the country who decided to take this bold step in staying open. We provided all in-person groups; no virtual groups. We kept going, with the amazing dedication and compassion of our volunteers. And sadly, we have seen the result of the pandemic as it takes the form of increased depression and anxiety on the children and teenagers. But, we keep going. We have seen a large increase in the need for our services. Our groups are way too large, but how do you turn away a child or teen who is sitting in their darkest of times? So, we manage in our over-crowded groups, the kids not seeming to mind. They’re together, and that’s what they care about. The power of connection for those hurting is profound. We love what we do and are honored and humbled to witness healing in the face of insurmountable pain.
Lynn Snyder, LPC, ATR-BC, FT
My children’s experience at Common Ground has been life-changing. They’re so much more well-adjusted than I ever thought possible. In fact, when I look at their peer group, my sense is that they are actually emotionally and mentally healthier than many of their own peers. Common Ground has been so critical in helping them deal with life’s challenges, and we are extremely grateful.