Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice Helps Families Facing Grief, Death

NORTHAMPTON — “My name is Matthew, and I am here to remember my brother.” This is a familiar sentence spoken at the opening circle by dozens of children and teens at the Garden: a Center for Grieving Children and Teens.

Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice welcomed the Garden, previously a program of the YMCA, to its community-based bereavement-support programs earlier this spring. The Garden provides support to children, teens, and families learning to live with the loss of a loved one.

Northampton resident Geraldine Unger and her two children sought help from the Garden in 2009 following the suicide of their husband and father Mark Unger. “Death is a hard concept for young children,” she said. “At the Garden, my children and I could talk about our loss openly. They knew they were not alone and were able to see that death is a part of life.”

The Garden provides groups and grief education to children, teens, and families whose lives have been impacted by the death of a loved one. Activities and discussion groups help young people identify and share their feelings and begin the healing process.

Parents and guardians meet separately to discuss their concerns as the family navigates the grief journey. There is no charge to the families; funding is provided by donations from individuals and businesses that support the mission and the work of the Garden, and through events and activities designed to raise awareness about the program’s offerings. The Garden has served more than 400 families since it was founded by Barbara Weiner-Dubeck in 1998.

Shelly Bathe Lenn, program coordinator since 2004, continues in this capacity and is an employee of Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice. She earned a master’s degree in education and a certificate of advanced graduate study in school counseling from UMass Amherst.

While all programs and services of the Garden are free, participating families are encouraged to make a monthly contribution in an amount that is comfortable. To access services offered by the Garden, call (413) 582-5312.

In addition to services offered by the Garden, Cooley Dickinson VNA & Hospice offers adult bereavement programs for people who are grieving the death of someone close to them. Participants are welcome regardless of where they received hospice services. Call (413) 584-1060 for more information.