Willow House: Supporting grieving children and their families
Erin Leyden, Executive Director
Lisa Lindell, Support Group Member
For more than 20 years, Willow House has provided a safe space for children to come together and express their grief. The ultimate goal is to help these children, and their families, feel encouraged and understand they are not alone.
Beyond their monthly community gatherings, they also partner with local schools to bring support services and education to children affected by loss.
Erin Leyden is the Executive Director for Willow House with more than a decade of non-profit experience. She was drawn to Willow House because of their close-knit community.
Lisa Lindell’s husband, Bob, passed away from cancer in 2015. She and her children, Julia and Beau, have been attending the support groups for three years and are active members of the Willow House community.
Willow House is a safe haven where the Lindells can come and process through their grief with complete acceptance, regardless of how strong their emotions are. And supporting other families going through the same emotions helped give purpose to their loss and empowered them to remember what a meaningful life Bob lived.
A Strong Support Network
A Club Like No Other
Community in unlikely circumstances
The holidays can be full of painful memories of loved ones who are no longer there to participate in the festivities. Willow House is committed to bringing hope during the holidays when those affected by loss may be at their darkest spot.
The closerlook team spoke with Erin and Lisa about their experiences with Willow House. Erin's work as Executive Director consists of helping families process their grief and honor their lost loved ones.
“What happens after a funeral when all the casseroles and condolence calls have stopped? What happens when it's time to resume day-to-day activities without a parent, child, or sibling?
As children learn to cope with their grief, we want to provide a healthy outlet for them and their families. We create spaces where families can come and share memories. Laugh together. Cry together. We want to empower the parent who may be hanging on by a thread and provide them with tools for helping their children cope with grief.
We help with the healing process by building a community of support—from social workers to other families grappling with loss. We have social gatherings where we come together as a group. There is always a powerful energy in the room centered around the commonality of loss.
People who come may not know how to talk about their loss with friends, but when they come to a gathering, there’s an instant connection. It helps them feel safe enough to share about their loved one. And there is this bond that happens as everyone shares their story and is able to process their grief.”
Lisa also remarked on the journey her family has taken since their first holiday event with Willow House.
“For our first Holiday Remembrance Ceremony, we were nervous because we weren't sure what to expect. We didn't know if we'd have to say something or how we’d be feeling that day. You start getting used to being anxious about how you're going to feel or react.
The first time that we honored him (Bob) in front of everyone and lit the candle was challenging. I found it hard to find the right words. Looking at his picture was difficult, but everyone was so comforting and supportive. They were okay with sadness because it’s a healthy response.
This year was our third gathering, and I sent so many pictures of Bob because I couldn't pick just one. We were able to talk about how we continue to connect with Bob. The way we have been able to speak about him over these three years has grown. It’s easier to share memories and honor his legacy.”
closerlook is proud to make a donation to Willow House. Learn more about how you can help them care for grieving families.
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