Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.
Issue link: http://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/506487
W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s u m m e r 2 0 1 5 146 "Children can feel two things at once and they shift from one emotion to another much faster than adults," Wiles said, "from feeling intense one minute to being excited to play outside with friends the next." HEARTplay taps into this energy by mixing art and physical activities, as well as the chance to talk about the loved one who died. Most HEARTplay sessions start with a game involving a big, colorful parachute that introduces the day's theme, such as "weathering the storm" in March. Each child takes a turn sitting under the center of a large parachute and sharing what he or she is doing to "get through a hard time" as the parachute is shaken by the other chil- dren on the periphery. The session's art project might then be to make a snow globe. Each child creates a scene under the dome and is able to shake it up and watch the chaos settle down to tranquility. Wiles said it symbolizes standing strong during tumultuous periods. When it's time to talk, there is always a heart-shaped object passed from one speaker to the next, signaling who has the floor. Discussions may start with a simple question such as what is your favorite ice cream or animal, before delving into more personal questions about the loved one who has died. Wiles said the goal of the program is not to make children "professional grievers" about their loss, but to integrate their love and fond memories into the lives they are con- tinuing to live. Often it is through Parmenter's Hospice services that the connec- tion is made. Based in Wayland, Parmenter serves many of the sur- rounding communities with HEARTplay, including Wellesley and Weston, but children all over the greater Boston area can participate. All HEARTplay services are offered free of charge. Children and teens need to be around peers who have also experi- enced a significant loss, because young people grieve differently than adults. Talking concretely about their feelings may be beyond their grasp, but that does not mean they are not aware of their loss, Wiles said. "Even infants experience grief if separated from a caregiver." But when left with a vacuum, children will turn to "magical think- ing" to explain their circumstances, very often taking on blame for what happened or fear that something bad will happen to the surviving par- ent or sibling(s). "They will ask the same questions over and over," Wiles said; it's just how children process things. If a parent or sibling died of an illness, they will need lots of reassurance they are not going to get sick, too, or that others in the family, particularly the surviving parent if it was a parent who died, is not going to leave them. There are informal parent support groups that run concurrent with the HEARTplay sessions, Wiles said, where issues such as these can be shared. Parents of older children may be able to share about their understanding of how their child's concept of death and dying has changed over time. family matters "they shift from one emotion to another" C O U R T E S Y O F T H E P A R M E N T E R F O U N D A T I O N