You Are Not Alone
For more than 20 years, Supporting Kidds has counseled hundreds of grieving children and their families. And the organization’s efforts continue to grow.
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Awoken by his mother’s screams, Jonathan jumped out of bed and ran to his door. His protective older sister, Samantha, 13, tried to push him back into his room, but it was too late. Jonathan had already glimpsed his father in the midst of a seizure, heard his mother’s frantic call to 911.
To their mother, Dawn Pinghera, everything was surreal about the night her 39-year-old husband, Brian, died suddenly of respiratory failure. Dawn’s father had died of a heart attack when she was 14. Now her young children had lost their father.
“Walking back into my house when I returned from the hospital and seeing my mother there, I just thought, this is déjà vu. I’m living my mother’s life,” she says.
Dawn was determined that things would turn out differently. When Dawn lost her father, she and her siblings were encouraged to keep on living as if nothing had happened. No one ever talked about the death; no one ever suggested Dawn might benefit from counseling. So Dawn knew her grieving children needed support.
“Jonathan and Samantha were experiencing nightmares, insomnia, anxiety and all sorts of fears—fear of death, of losing me,” Dawn says. “Samantha was terrified of seeing her father’s ghost, which is not that surprising considering how many people kept saying, ‘Your father is always watching over you.’ I knew they needed help, and I didn’t feel competent to handle it on my own.”
She didn’t have to. Dawn was referred to Supporting Kidds, a local organization that provides counseling and support for grieving children and their families. Within weeks, the Pingheras had met for an evaluation with Kristin Van Doren, a staff therapist and clinical coordinator for Supporting Kidds. Van Doren suggested individual counseling for Samantha and family counseling for Jonathan. Supporting Kidds also offers group therapy. The Pingheras signed up for the next available six-week session.
Supporting Kidds, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, was born of a “grassroots coming together,” says interim executive director Tony Felicia. Edna DeVito, a registered nurse, and the Rev. Marlene Walters, founded Supporting Kidds to help children affected by divorce (the second D in Kidds), though they focused on the children who had lost a parent through death.
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