When you walk into the “Grief Cave” in the Children’s Services wing of Avow’s Lyon Center, it is clear that you are walking into something special.  Not only are you greeted with the purple hues of blacklight and florescent writing, but you are also looking into the hearts and minds of the children that Avow provides support to in the community.  The grief cave is a place to share your heart, and for one child, named Andrew, it was a powerful outlet for self-expression.

Andrew lost a close friend to cancer last year and has been coping with the loss ever since.  Losing someone close was very difficult for him, so his family reached out to Avow to provide grief support.  One of the keys to processing grief is to find coping skills that work.  This can be a challenge because everyone expresses grief in different ways and copes in their own unique way.  For Andrew, writing is his most effective coping tool. He has written many poems to help process his loss and is even writing a fiction story loosely based on his experiences after losing his friend. Andrew hopes the story will help others who have also had someone close to them die.

After hearing about the Avow Grief Cave, Andrew was eager to share using his writing.  With a florescent marker and the thoughts in his head, he was able to use the space to say whatever he wanted to say. Many of the children and teens receiving support from Avow Children’s Services are given this same opportunity: An opportunity to write how they are feeling and to put into words their sorrow, fear, anger, and any of the other emotions that they are working through.  The goal is to have this process provide relief from some of these emotions and to help others to feel less alone.  It is common for children to feel isolated in their grief journey.  By walking into a room filled with the emotions of others who have been through the same hurt, children are reminded that there are many others who have gone through a similar experience.

Andrew left the Grief Cave after providing an inspirational message.  This message read: “You are more than the sum of your past mistakes.”  Andrew explained that this was his way of encouraging others to remember that the things we may have done wrong in the past do not define who we will be in the future.  He has struggled with regrets after losing his friend, but shares that he is choosing to move forward.  He hopes that he will inspire others to do the same.

The Grief Cave serves as another outlet to share feelings in an artistic and creative way.  Avow Children’s Services continues to strive to find new ways to help children through their grief journey.  By offering the Grief Cave, Avow is able to provide a fun and unique way for children to explore their grief and be inspired and connected to others through the anonymous messages that cover the walls.

Avow’s Children’s Services program, designed for children ages 5-17, provides support and companionship to children who are grieving the loss of a parent, sibling, friend, or relative through illness, accident, suicide, or homicide.  Avow also helps children process and heal from other types of loss, including divorce, the loss of a friend, instability in the foster care system, and deployed parents and family members.  Avow Children’s Services is committed to supporting children through all types of loss experiences.  For more information, call (239) 261-4404 or email ChildrensServices@avowcares.org.