Recently a staff member shared this story of a phone call that she took at The Dougy Center that said she will never forget.
“It was from a mother who had gone away for the weekend leaving her 15 year old daughter in the care of her 21 year old daughter. Her 19 year old son attended a local college and was also planning to stop by the house to check in. On Sunday morning, the younger daughter found her older sister had died the night before from a previously undetected heart condition. On the phone that morning the mom told me her story quickly, trying to hold in her emotion. She told me that everyone she knew told her to call The Dougy Center—that we could help her and her family.
I began to tell her about our services—sensing her urgency to learn the information as quickly as possible. I told her about our teen support groups. That we could get her 15 year old signed up to attend an orientation as soon as they were ready and her daughter could stay in a group at The Dougy Center for as long as she needed to. I let her know that at the same time she could attend her own support group. I talked about our young adult group for her 19 year old son. He could start as early as that Wednesday if he was ready. I let her know I was going to mail her a copy of our book Helping Teens Cope with Death that day. I offered to transfer her to one of our program staff who could give her guidance about how to talk to her kids about this awful tragedy and I let her know that she could call back anytime if she had any questions.
As I was explaining our services, she stopped me and said “wait a minute, how much is all of this going to cost me? I can't afford this.” I quickly apologized and said that I should have told her immediately that it wasn’t going to cost her anything. There is no fee for our services.
And that is when she broke down and started sobbing. Saying “bless you” over and over again as she cried. In that moment I truly recognized just how important it is that our services are free. What if my answer had to have been different that day? What if that mom couldn't get her kids the support that they so desperately needed because she couldn't afford it? I am so very grateful that I will never know the answer to that. I can tell you from where I stand today, that The Dougy Center not only changes lives, it saves lives. And I am privileged to witness this every day.”
You have an opportunity to join us in our mission—to support the crucial services that we provide at no cost to families when they need it most. November 11th, 2014 is the date for this year’s annual Fall Luncheon fundraiser for The Dougy Center. Held at the newly renovated and beautiful Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland, this free luncheon is as much a ‘Friend raiser’ as fundraiser and we invite you to contact us to host a table and bring your friends who might be interested in learning more about The Dougy Center and supporting our mission.
Contact Rebecca Sturges at 503- 542-4827 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on hosting a table at or attending The Dougy Center Fall Luncheon or visit our website at www.dougy.org.
When the tulips and daffodils begin sprouting up from the ground, you know Spring is not far behind. While May and June bring the promise of warmer temperatures and more sunshine to all of us, it can be a treacherous time for those who are grieving. Mother’s Day, followed swiftly by Father’s Day, can bring feelings of uneasiness and deep sadness when we are grieving the death of a parent.
Imagine, just for a moment, being 9 years old in your 3rd grade classroom as the teacher announces the art project of the day: We will be making Mother’s Day gifts! ….. And you are there, just 9 years old, grieving your mother’s death. Even kind words from your teacher or the option to make something for another special person in your life won’t soften the blow.
But what do you do on these holidays when your parent has died? What do you do when you feel like you are the only child, teenager or young adult who no longer has that parent to honor? For more than 1,100 children and parents last year, there was one thing that they could do – come to The Dougy Center – where no child has to grieve alone.
Jenny is one of the young adults that has been helped by The Dougy Center’s programs. A few weeks after Mother’s Day on June 3rd of last year, Jenny’s mother died suddenly while traveling for work. Jenny remembers getting the phone call from her father and the shock that came over her as she tried to process the information. “It was really hard,” she said. “It is still really, really hard. I talked to my mom on the phone pretty much every day. She was my best friend. She was so loved by so many people. It was hard for me to believe she was just suddenly gone.”
Jenny’s mom, Judy, was a prominent career woman dedicated to her family and community. Jenny remembers the last Mother’s Day they had together when Judy mentioned wistfully that she might retire soon and start giving tours of the Old Town/Chinatown district of Downtown Portland. “Everyone had told her she should do that for years,” said Jenny.
“My sister and I were kind of dreading Mother’s Day this year,” Jenny went on to share. “I was buying a card and being in that part of the store was hard, seeing commercials on TV was hard too. It was everywhere.” But, twice a month, Jenny finds support at The Dougy Center, where she has attended a grief support group for more than six months.
“The group feels like a lifesaver to me. There are people who understand and it’s okay to feel however I am feeling in the moment. Even in my family, there seems to be pressure to not bring up my mom or to not be sad. That makes my Dougy Center group even more important for me.”
Feeling understood is one of the most impactful benefits that your contribution to The Dougy Center is providing to grieving kids, teens, young adults and their surviving parents. Your gift directly supports our Grief Support Group programs – making possible that safe space where grief is okay, where play is okay, and where there are others who understand. Even more than that, your generosity today will help The Dougy Center provide support to more grieving families in more efficient and effective ways. Shorter waiting periods, additional support groups, and more outreach to the community are all parts of our plans for the future.
Lastly, whether locally, nationally or internationally, The Dougy Center’s mission is this: to provide a safe space for children, teens, young adults and their parents to forge their new path after the death of a loved one. At The Dougy Center, we have the privilege of walking with them along that path. In that spirit, I’d like to share a poem recently given to us from a parent of a Dougy Center child:
Swimming in the lake of my own tears, head barely above water,
feeling like sinking, but my kids are hanging on to me.
So I tread water as hard as I can.
I see an island, so I swim to it. Solid ground at The Dougy Center.
Your gift to The Dougy Center helps families get through their grief, in their own way, on their own timeline. Your gift helps grieving families find solid ground. Thank you for your commitment to the families who find comfort and support at The Dougy Center every day.
Aaron was 13 when his mom died by suicide. After her death he returned to school fearful of what his friends and other students at the school would think. In the first few days he was surrounded by a chorus of “I’m sorry for your loss” and “Wow, really?” from close friends, teachers, and also people he’d never spoken to before. That support quickly faded though and was replaced with questions and comments like, “What was wrong with your mom?” “Was she crazy” “Your family must be really messed up.” and “Guess you’re the broken kid now. You know no one ever really gets better after something like that happens.”
Angry that people would think about him and his family like that, Aaron was also afraid that maybe they were right; maybe he was broken and would always be. A few months later Aaron started in a teen support group at The Dougy Center. He remembers being scared at his first group and worried that the kids there, even though they had all had someone die, would still treat him like there was something wrong with him and his family. At the end of that first group Aaron was amazed by how supportive and understanding the other teens were. No matter how their parent or brother or sister died – cancer, heart attack, drug overdose, car crash – everyone was seen as an equal: teens who were dealing with hard things like grief and changes in their family, but still teens who could keep listening to music, going to school, planning for the future, and dealing with all the day to day things that come with being a teenager. Aaron left that night knowing that he was grieving and sad and angry about his mom’s death, but that he wasn’t broken.
Aaron and his story is just one out of hundreds of kids and families like his that find their way to The Dougy Center every year. And that number is growing. It is estimated that, in the Portland area, 19,000 (1 in 20) children currently live in homes where a parent or stepparent has died. Grieving children are especially vulnerable to feelings of isolation and anxiety. They may feel isolated from their friends and peers at school. Numerous studies have found that grieving children are at higher risk than their non-bereaved counterparts for issues with depression, negative coping behaviors, regression to earlier developmental stages, trouble concentrating and physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches. This can add an extra burden of stress to the parent or caregiver who is also grieving and readjusting to the changes in life that death can bring, resulting in more difficulties for the family as a whole. The Dougy Center is uniquely prepared to respond to the needs of these families and your support will help us continue to do so.
Reflection: Annual Benefit and Gala and 2014 Porsche Boxster Raffle
The Dougy Center's Annual Benefit and Gala: Reflection is the organization's largest fundraising event for the year and accounts for approximately one-third of the annual operating budget for our grief support group program. The event will be held on May 9th, 2014 at the Portland Art Museum. It includes a silent auction, featuring art by children participating in The Dougy Center's grief support group program as well as wine, travel packages, home decor, and other items donated by local businesses, restaurants and artists. The silent auction is followed by an elegant dinner for over 400 people, testimonial speakers and a live auction. Corporate sponsors contribute a considerable portion of the income for the event, last year totaling over $70,000. Additionally, during the live auction, a "paddle raise" is conducted by the auctioneer encouraging guests to sponsor a Dougy Center child at gift levels starting at $1500, which provides grief support groups for that child for one year. Last year, The Dougy Center raised over $115,000 in child sponsorship funds during this portion of the event. At the conclusion of the evening, the winner of The Dougy Center's annual Porsche Boxster raffle is drawn! The 2014 Porsche Boxster is a beauty and is valued at over $52,500. Only 2,000 tickets are available for sale and tickets are sold for $100 each in the months leading up to the event. Last year, Reflection and the Porsche Boxster raffle raised a combined total of $466,633. Buy your ticket today at www.dougy.org!
The mission of The Dougy Center is to provide a safe place where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences.