"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."  Fred Rogers

Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss, a year-round grief support center for children and adults coping with loss due to death, opened its doors May 7, 2012 and has since served 88 families from 32 NJ towns.  “At Imagine children have a chance to express their feelings in a safe place which is an essential part of healthy mourning,” said Connie Palmer, Imagine Clinical and Training Director.  “Parents and other adults who are coping with loss due to death also receive support at Imagine.  Providing support for adults actually helps us help the children and teens who are grieving because they depend on the adults in their lives to be there for them during this painful time. ”

"Imagine is made possible through the dedication and time of volunteers and through the generous support of the community," said Mary Robinson, Imagine Executive Director and Founder, whose own father died when she was 14.  "Many of our volunteers and supporters tell us how much they wish this type of program was around when they were a child. 

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This past year, whether after the tragedy in Newtown, Hurricane Sandy, the Boston Marathon Bombing or other traumatic events, at Imagine we took comfort from Fred Rogers’ advice to “look for the helpers.”   Luckily because of where we work, we never have to look far.  Helpers show up almost every day at Imagine, to answer phones, assemble training manuals, facilitate support groups and to transform First United Methodist Church into a grief support center and back into a church on a weekly basis.  They show up to staff booths at fairs and spring flings, to stuff envelopes, serve on committees,  to paint and assemble furniture and to govern and lead.  We are indebted to all the helpers who built Imagine this past year and who got us to our one-year anniversary.

On a recent Night of Support at Imagine a father let us know it was his son’s 12th birthday.  He said that rather than have a party his son chose to come to Imagine – he said his son didn’t want to miss a single night and wanted to spend his birthday with his Imagine friends.

A mother who attends Imagine with her nine-year old daughter shared the following statement with us:  “The words I commonly use now thanks to Imagine, are future, healing, and hope.  Imagine has enabled me to be a better mom and provide my daughter with a strong foundation of support.  We are healing together.  Something I wouldn’t have believed possible just nine months ago.”

At Imagine children and adults make life-long friends, develop healthy coping skills and grow more resilient.  The Imagine program focuses on transforming grief, loss and trauma into resiliency, empathy and compassion.  Grieving children and teens are at risk for unhealthy and destructive ways of coping with painful feelings and future life losses, but not if they get support.  Imagine is committed to ensuring grieving children grow up emotionally healthy and able to live meaningful and productive lives.

Imagine is currently serving over 120 bereaved children, teens, parents and adults.  This is made possible through the dedication of 40 trained adult volunteer facilitators and 12 teen facilitators.  We currently run two Nights of Support and will be starting a third Night of Support this fall for families and adults coping with loss due to death and one for children and adults who have a family member coping with a terminal, chronic or life-altering illness. 

Fred Rogers also said “if it’s mentionable it’s manageable.”  At Imagine, children get to tell their stories and have all their feelings.  We believe if a child can talk about a traumatic loss, whether through words, play or art, they will be able to cope with and manage their feelings in healthy and constructive ways.  At Imagine we “give sorrow words” but also crayons, paint, glitter and glue! 

Please join us on our one-year anniversary on Tuesday May 7th, 2013 from 3 PM – 5 PM to learn more about this important community resource.  Call 908-264-3100 or email us at info@imaginenj.org to let us know you’ll be attending, or just stop by!

For more information or to volunteer contact Imagine at info@imaginenj.org or 908-334-5723 or visit our website at www.imaginenj.org.