A non-descript, pale yellow building is tucked behind a local funeral home in Windsor, Connecticut. At first glance, it just seems like every other New England home built in the downtown areas of the state. Upon a closer look you see a sign in front that reads,

Mary's Place

Mary's Place Logo

For many of us, the sign is so small and the name so simple that we wouldn't give it much thought. However, for the children, teens, and families that attend group sessions at Mary's Place, that pale yellow building is what helps them get through every day after having lost a loved one. The Non-Scents team attended two sessions; one morning and one afternoon as the leaders for the main activity: Origami Flower Making for Mother's Day We knew what Mary's Place was, but we couldn't have possibly prepared ourselves for what we were about to experience.  

"My name is Sarah, I'm 4-years old and my mom died."

"My name is Timmy, I'm 7-years old and my dad died."

"My name is Paul, I'm almost 8-years old in a few weeks and my dad died."

I will always miss and love you

There were 11 kids in the morning session ages 4-8 years old who were all there because they had lost someone they loved. . .for most of them, this person was either one or both of their parents.

Group Circle came first, where each participant told the group their name, age, and who died in their family. Next, they each shared a memory they have with the person who died.

"I remember, before my dad couldn't walk anymore he loved to play football and took me and my brother to the hall of fame"

"I remember my mom used to play with me"

"I remember my mom used to come to all of my school games"

"I remember my dad used to hide my toy cars in his truck when I did something bad because that's the only way I'd stop and listen."

After sharing, each child got their "Me-Sticks" and four cans were set up in the center of the circle, each representing one of four emotions; happy, sad, confused, and angry. One at a time, each person had to put their me-stick into one of the four cans and explain why they chose that emotion for how they were feeling that day. This was the final exercise before the origami activity began.

Mary's Place Non-Scents setup kids table

Since the first group was so young, we gave them already folded flowers and let them pick the color of their leaves, the type of stem they wanted for their flower, and of course, they wrote their own messages after they had finished putting their flowers together. The lead volunteer told them that the flowers were for Mother's Day but followed that statement by saying that for some of them who don't have a mom, it was something they could give to their main caretaker or bring to their mother's grave.

Kayla's message to Mary's Place

As we helped each child with their flowers we noticed some were writing a note to their mom who had died saying that they'll always love them. Others wrote to their moms, aunts, or main caretaker, while some preferred to draw a picture of their family when it was whole.

These kids were happy, playful, curious, and intelligent children who, through the help of Mary's Place, have been learning how to cope with death and deal with their grief. Nobody said, "I'm sorry for your loss", it was just something everyone understood and the idea was to be upfront and honest about your loss and how you're feeling; not to get something in return but to help you help yourself.

For the closing activity before snack time, the families and caretakers joined the group and we formed a circle, held hands, and sang the following verse four times in a row:

Blessing be with you my friend 
May you never walk alone
As the world is turning round a round
May your angel come and hold you.

 

Mary's Place Sign

*Me-Stick: a square sign that is decorated by its owner depicting who they are and how they feel. Please note, real names were not used in order to protect the identity of the children and families who go to Mary's Place as a safe haven. If you would like to donate to Mary's Place, Volunteer, or learn more just follow the links!