Hearts Can Heal Goes VIRTUAL
Posted: 8/1/20 by Julia Dunn, M.Ed., LPC (Program Director)
Two weeks into our Hanover Spring
Hearts Can Heal program, news of a novel virus entering the United States began to trickle onto our radar. Within a 48-hour period, we went from brainstorming ways to reinvent the handshake squeeze ritual (following guidelines at the time that no hand-to-hand contact = safety), to realizing that it was unsafe for even the four staff members to be together in the grief center, let alone 36 program participants and a dozen volunteers. Suddenly, just as the families in our program felt after experiencing loss, our plans were flipped upside down.
Seemingly naïve in hindsight, our initial plan to hold off on Hearts Can Heal for two weeks and then resume in-person quickly became an unthinkable goal. But we had already invested two weeks into these families, and more importantly they had invested two weeks into the start of their healing journey. Even with the rapidly changing news of the pandemic swirling around us, we knew we could not leave these families stranded in bereavement limbo, so an action plan started forming. Ready or not: Hearts Can Heal was going virtual.
With full support from the Program team, Program Director Julia Dunn sprang into action writing the virtual Hearts Can Heal group. Following in Leslie’s footsteps and building off her original design, the program fell into place. We constructed a “Hearts Can Heal Care Package,” full of items and activities we would do together as a group each week. With one dedicated Companion in tow, Julia and Leslie led our families through the topics of memories, coping skills, and rituals. We even had past program graduates join us for Alumni Night! The success and growth evident each week astounded us and encouraged us to feel that we were on the right track.
Using an audio/visual element through the program provided a backbone to the six weeks, culminating in a video that inspired a final ritual for our group to commemorate the unique healing journey they were on. During our last group session, Julia chose a video that introduced the concept of holding a “Viking Funeral” to represent letting go of your past self and becoming the person you want to be. The video showed children writing on cards what they wanted to let go of and placing these cards on a massive Viking ship, which was ceremoniously set on fire to symbolize the release of the past. Keeping with this idea of healing and moving forward, we constructed our very own Viking ship – one that we would set aflame to represent letting go of the parts of ourselves that no longer serve us. Each participant added their card to the ship, allowing us to experience our first Viking Funeral.
By bringing the Hearts Can Heal program— a program that has worked successfully for over twenty years – into a virtual realm, we have been able to maximize our resources and potentially expand our reach in the future. Olivia’s House knows how to assimilate change, and we are excited to continue meeting the needs of our community in innovative ways!
The VIRTUAL Olivian Gala
Posted: 7/1/20 by K.C. Delp (Executive Director)
We are getting pretty good at rolling with the Covid-19 punches! Who should be better at assimilating change than a Grief and Loss Center? When we decided to make our 18th annual Scrumdiddlyumptious Olivian Gala entirely virtual, we knew people would have questions. The first one was obvious: Why? While the current “green phase” pandemic protocols allow for gatherings of up to 250, that does not account for groups of people dining together. The dining room restrictions require the Country Club of York to provide service at only a maximum of 30% capacity. Right then and there our decision was made. BUT, had that not been the case, could you imagine us trying to set up a dance floor incorporating 6 foot distancing?! It would have been an entire night of the Cupid Shuffle! However, we were a bit curious to see how our favorite Gala fashionistas would work their matching facemasks!!!
With a VIRTUAL event EVERYONE can participate! That begs the next question: What is a Virtual Gala? On Friday, July 31 from 7:00 pm until 8:00 pm the Olivia’s House Facebook page will be your source for streaming content. We will stream our Tradition Toast (so make sure to have your beverage ready), Leslie’s annual address, our Premier Auction, the reveal of the winning Golden Ticket holder for the Chocolate Diamond Necklace and our Scrumdiddlyumptious Scavenger Hunt winner (extending two coveted tickets to the 2021 Olivian Gala). And you will not want to miss our special guest appearances! Who knows, you may even share a dance to live music!? We will be having the time of our lives together in the comfort and safety of our homes.
The online auction, beginning July 24th, will come to conclusion during the virtual event. Register now for our online auction on the GiveSmart platform. Once registered, you can purchase your Golden Ticket candy for a chance to win our Chocolate Diamond Necklace, compliments of Futer Bros Jewelers. Use your social media to engage in our interactive scavenger hunt (we can't wait to see your outfits and hear your songs)! AND most importantly, place your bids on our fabulous online auction items! The best part, you will receive text message updates about the status of your bids throughout the evening.
We would much rather give you a hug in person, and together lift a glass to another wonderful year of supporting our grieving community. Ensuring best health practices for everyone is our goal, so thank you for your understanding. We feel blessed to live in a time where technology can help us to bridge this gap!
Pregnant During a Pandemic
Posted: 6/1/20 by Michelle Fox (Administrative Director)
It is of no surprise to some that I am a planner, a routine person, a scheduler, and a list maker. . .but being pregnant during a pandemic is something I did not foresee happening. When my husband and I decided to begin a family, I was aiming for a winter/spring pregnancy. Imagine my delight when it just so happened that we would be expecting a baby girl at the end of April. Perfect, right? Oh, how wrong I was.
I thought I could spend the last month and a half of my pregnancy being selfish with my time. I saw myself perusing the aisles of Target, sniffing candles while sipping coffee. I thought I could sneak in a pampering session to get my nails done—something just for me to enjoy. I thought my husband and I would go for one last dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant—just the two of us. But what happened is something I could have never planned for. The Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to all of my pregnancy plans just six weeks before I was set to give birth.
I am grateful that myself, my baby and my family remain healthy, but not everyone is so fortunate. Families are having to distance themselves, some not even allowed to see their loved one who may be in a hospital room, solo. High school and college seniors are missing out on some of the most important milestones in their academic career. Children are forced to continue to their education at home without seeing their friends and teachers. There are so many losses that we did not prepare for because we didn’t know we’d have to.
While we are foolish to think that life will go back to “normal” after the pandemic calms down, we find ourselves asking, what is normal now? How will I cope without my family surrounding me giving birth in the hospital? How cautious will I have to be when introducing my baby girl for the first time, limiting who she can be around? When will it be safe to take her out of the house to run an errand without having to wear a mask or remain six feet from other people? There is so much uncertainty surrounding us at this time and I, too, am navigating this uncharted territory.
The pandemic is something none of us would have ever dreamt of happening, especially a planner like myself! But we must remember— this too shall pass. It has brought on many mixed emotions, and an important reminder that you cannot predict the unpredictable. We are all in this together. Alone, but together!
Keep the Faith
Posted: 5/1/20 by Leslie Delp, MA (Founder and Bereavement Specialist)
The world has been turned upside down. We are all feeling confused with how to help ourselves, our family, and our community. In time like these, the only thing that can guide you through is having faith. Olivia’s House was founded on faith! When our mission first came to the community in 2001 and asked for support, no one had ever heard of a children’s grief and loss center. Our country was coming off the heels of 9/11, a time when worlds were turned upside down by terrorists who drove us into both a recession and a fearful existence, not knowing who was friend and who was wishing harm to America. We have worked long and hard since those days to regain trust and to know that we can rely on one another in times of need. Our community helped to build Olivia’s House— not only in York, but ten years later in Hanover.
The state of our world right now mandates that we are no longer able to reach out and touch one another. What we normally find as rituals of comfort are suddenly no longer allowed because of safety regulations. Who would have ever dreamed we could not have physical contact with our friends and family? Because of the virus, we are facing the loss of people we love and care about . . . then another layer of loss is added when we can’t attend a funeral or other ritual surrounding the loss. We recognize this as one of the most devastating parts of this pandemic. It has stolen our ability to comfort one another through the physical connections we rely on! One thing we know for sure is that Olivia’s House knows how to comfort families, especially children, when things change drastically in their lives. We are experts in teaching people how to move through crisis-related trauma with ease. We are the champions of comforting in a crisis! And we are so grateful for the trust our community has in our mission at times like these.
Olivia’s House is blessed that we have the trust of York countians, as well as all of the folks in surrounding communities who have learned we are here to support them. Families in the Gettysburg area, some as far east as Lancaster county, and those over the Maryland border in Baltimore county and Westminster have all benefitted from the dedication of the staff and mission of Olivia’s House. We are here for you during this crisis and we are sure of one thing: the families we support in the community make Olivia’s House what it is: a strong mission. And in return, Olivia’s House strengthens families in their time of need. Hang in there, friends. We will get through this together, one step at a time!
Logan's First Funeral
Posted: 4/1/20 by Julia Dunn, M.Ed., LPC (Program Director)
When Olivia’s House founder Leslie Delp wrote the Hearts Can Heal program more than 20 years ago, children’s bereavement was still something that was not openly talked about. In many families, especially those who don’t have access to a grief center like Olivia’s House, the fear surrounding funerals has prevented many parents from allowing their children to attend the important “emotional group hug” that is a funeral.
Leslie recognized the importance of including children in death-related rituals, and the idea of the funeral-home field trip was born. In over twenty years of programming, this remains one of the favorite evenings of our program, by children and adults alike!
But Leslie found there was a scarcity of children’s literature that addressed death and the funeral experience. And so, in a process that has spanned almost 15 years, Olivia’s House has created a resource that can benefit families around the globe when questions about funerals arise in their own home. We are excited to announce the publication of our original picture book, Logan’s First Funeral!
Written by Leslie Delp and illustrated by the incredibly talented Vicki Friedman, Logan’s First Funeral tells the story of 9-year-old Logan, who loses his friend and classmate Georgie in a car accident. Logan has so many questions for his mother. Does he have to be invited to the funeral? Will Georgie be sleeping in his casket? What even is a casket?? Logan’s mom uses all the right language to explain to Logan the beauty of funerals and encourages him to be curious about the ritual. Logan learns that nothing is taboo when it comes to celebrating the life of our loved ones.
Logan’s First Funeral is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We can’t wait to share this resource with you!