Our House – Grief Support Center
By Judy Shields
Hollywood, California (The Hollywood Times) November 3, 2017 – “Non-profit grief support center. We serve people all across the life span who has experienced a death of someone close.” Lauren Schneider, LCSW, Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Programs at Our House told The Hollywood Times during a telephone interview.
This is one organization that I believe everyone should be looking into. We will all, at one time or another, have to deal with death and grief. Why not take the time to look into this organization for their support. Enjoy the following article.
The Hollywood Times (THT): I read that Our House is a great support group for young children.
Lauren Schneider (LS): “Yes we do, we start working with kids as young as four years old and up. Everybody who comes to our facility is placed in a group within their age who have experienced the same type of death. So like a child who is 15 and has had a parent die would be with other 15-year-old high school age kids that have had a parent die.”
“We believe that the support that is available from people who are in your peer group is what is going to be most helpful at that time. We are not a mental health center, and we don’t do therapy at all. Everything is group support from peers rather than from a therapist. The groups are facilitated by our groups leaders, who for the most part are volunteers that we train to lead the groups.”
THT: What is your background and training?
LS: “I am a clinical social worker and I had been working with grieving children in another setting but I have been running this program over 15 years now. Most of my career has been working with grieving children. Most of what I know I have learned from the kids themselves, because you can read all the books in the world and all the studies and everything like that and that’s wonderful, but grief is so unique and every time you are in a room with grieving children you really do learn something about how that particular child is feeling. That is the best environment to learn.”
THT: Do you have counsels and therapists?
LS: “We have wonderful volunteers that are really committed. Many of them stay with us for years and they really provide high quality support to the kids in their groups. Our volunteers are truly remarkable and they are prepared for the work they do.
The kids program, we have a school base support program, one of the largest in the country. We served 900 students last year in public schools here in Los Angeles County. Kids sometimes don’t show their grief on the outside, because they are outside playing and not sitting around with the grownups talking about it. They use distractions to cope with the pain of loss. They get left out of family discussion and might not get the support and have to grieve alone.”
THT: I read about your grief camps, tell us a little about those.
LS: “We have grief support camps that we offer. We have two sessions in the summer, so kids can come for a weekend, a two-night sleep away camp. That is both a fun outdoor camping experience and a way to get grief support by sharing your experience with your peers with the help of the volunteers. In camp they are encouraged to express themselves and this helps them with support.”
Lauren Schneider talked about the documentary she allowed to be made about her camps. It is called “One Last Hug…and a few smooches” an Emmy award-winning HBO documentary about Children’s Grief. It can be found on HBO https://play.hbogo.com/
Laura said the camp is a very magical setting where kids can just be kids for a weekend and do an enormous amount of healing after a death of someone very close to them.
Applications for camp are being accepted in February next year for the summer. They do have a lot kids that go to these camps.
Camp Erin LA & OC – Three weekends each summer, OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center hosts Camp Erin-Los Angeles and Camp Erin-Orange County. The weekend-long camp provides children an opportunity to learn coping skills, enjoy traditional summer camp activities, and connect with other children who are also grieving the death of someone close.
Who is Erin?
Camp Erin is named in memory of Erin Metcalf, a friend of Karen and Jamie Moyer who died of cancer at age 17. Erin’s wish was to help other children navigate through their grief.
What activities do campers participate in throughout the weekend?
Camp Erin combines traditional camp activities with grief support, education and remembrance projects and ceremonies. Campers swim; navigate a rock wall and rope course; engage in arts and crafts; and enjoy other activities designed to encourage and promote healing. Camp Erin allows children a chance to share their thoughts, feelings, and memories about the person who died with their peers. They participate in memorial ceremonies as well as outdoor activities that allow them to enjoy the freedom of childhood.
Who takes care of the campers?
Camp counselors are highly trained and compassionate volunteers who are there to support campers as they participate in activities and bond with one another. OUR HOUSE Directors and staff oversee the counselors throughout the entire weekend.
Our House offers three different journals. On is for kids under 10, which they can complete with a grown up and express their thoughts and feelings and to hold on to their precious memories. Kids are afraid of losing memories of those that have died, Lauren said.
The second journal is a teenager journal version is one that the kids can work on themselves to express their feelings and write down their memories of those that have recently passed away.
The third journal is the adult journal. These journals have very simple props that provide enough structure for them so that it decrease that overwhelming feeling and you can just start off by responding to the simple props.
The website offers these journals as well as several books on grief.
Lauren also mentioned that they have an enormous variety of one-page handouts on different topics that can be helpful for school personnel on how to support kids and many related to children’s grief. How to prepare a child who will be attending a funeral, whether for a friend or a loved one. All these handouts can be found on their website below.
She said that the most important thing to know is, what they are doing at Our House, is wonderful for the LA community but that there are grief support centers in the United States that have groups like theirs that are doing groups in school and grief camps and groups year round. People call Our House from all over the country and they can give them referrals for grief support resources in their communities. They have a great network of grief support centers nationally.
Our House will be celebrating their 25th anniversary in April 2018 and there will be a very big event to celebrate the occasion. Their school base program is 20 years old next year and their camp Aaron, which is a national grieving camp and they are celebrating its tenth anniversary here in Los Angeles next summer. A big year for Our House.
There is an event happening on November 17th. See below for more information:
Spend an Evening Laughing Out Loud – OUR HOUSE’s 9th Annual Night for Hope
Hosted by OUR HOUSE Associate Board
Friday, November 17, 2017
The Palace Theater Downtown LA
Doors Open at 6:30pm 21+
Click here for tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/night-for-hope-2017-tickets-38296244097
Our House is always looking for volunteers, the commitment to lead one school group per semester is a very small commitment, it’s about one hour a week, plus go through some training and so through supervision. There is probably a couple thousand students that could benefit from a grief group that will never have that opportunity because Our House does not have enough volunteers. Their next volunteer training is in January 2018.
So please look up being a volunteer to make a difference in a grieving child or adults life. Click here: http://www.ourhouse-grief.org/volunteer/
About Lauren Schneider LCSW
Lauren, a nationally recognized authority on Children’s Grief, has provided trainings for mental health clinicians, educators, clergy, health care providers and graduate students throughout the community since 2000. Lauren is the author of “Children Grieve Too: A Handbook for Parents of Grieving Children”. She also created “My Memory Book…for grieving children” as well as grief-related curricula for use at Camp Erin Los Angeles and in OUR HOUSE grief support groups. Lauren is the Associate Producer of “One Last Hug…and a few smooches” an Emmy award-winning HBO documentary about Children’s Grief. She trains and supervises OUR HOUSE group leaders as well as MSW and MFT clinicians and students. Lauren maintains a private practice in Los Angeles specializing in grief and loss.
Lauren’s areas of specialty are:
Talking to children after sudden deaths due to homicide, suicide, overdose or acts of terrorism the more stigmatized and unusual the circumstances of the death the less likely adults are to feel comfortable talking to their children about the cause when someone they love has died.
Children need to be told the truth in age appropriate language because they always find out the truth and they will feel anger, resentment or a lack of trust towards those who weren’t honest with them if they aren’t told the truth.
Helping grown-ups understand how to explain these types of death and how to empower their children to create their own narrative so they can comfortably talk about it with friends.
Preparing children for funerals or memorial services
Fostering resiliency in grieving children
Published Articles, Books & Film:
“Children Grieve too: A Handbook for Parents of Grieving Children.”
My Memory Book…for grieving children”
Associate Producer of “One Last Hug…and a few smooches” an Emmy award-winning HBO documentary about Children’s Grief.
About Our House
Grief is a natural reaction after the death of someone close. Yet in our society, few people are prepared for the intensity and duration of the grief process. Learn about OUR HOUSE Grief Support center and how we were founded on the premise that grievers need understanding, support, and connection. If you or someone you care about is grieving, we are here to help.
The OUR HOUSE mission is to provide the community with grief support services, education, resources, and hope. Since 1993, OUR HOUSE has helped thousands of grieving children, teens, and adults as they embark upon their journeys to hope and healing.
As a nonsectarian, nonprofit organization, we are reliant on the generosity of donors, corporate/community partners, and annual fundraising events. We offer special thanks to all of our volunteers, donors, and sponsors for their continued support.
About the Founder Jo-Ann Lautman
Jo-Ann Lautman was leading “Mommy and Me” classes at a pre-school in West LA as well as working with the Cedars-Sinai Hospice team during the early 1990s. Sadly, one of the moms died unexpectedly in her “Mommy & Me” class leaving a young widower and their child. At that moment, trying to console the young gentleman, Jo-Ann recognized there was an overlooked need for grief support in Los Angeles, particularly for younger grievers who were expected to “bounce back” and “find someone new.” Jo-Ann decided to make room for new passages in life, with the promise of keeping memories and dreams alive.
As the word about the groups grew, so did the seeds of OUR HOUSE. After two years helping the young widow and widowers find sweetness again in their life, OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center launched in October 1993 with its grief support mission as a safe and comfortable place to start the process of rebuilding lives after the devastation of the death of someone close.
From a staff of two to now 24 employees, from one group room to 11 group rooms in three offices, over 450 volunteers, satellite and school groups throughout LA County, OUR HOUSE serves grieving children and adults of all races, religions and ages, from 4 to 94. We have moved and grown and look to the future with the celebration of our 25th anniversary in 2018.