And just like that, we are at the start of summer! Graduations are held, the school year comes to a close, and vacations become the highlights of our days. Notable days in June are Best Friends Day (6/8), Smile Power Day (6/15) – this calls for a photo spread of smiles!, and of course Father’s Day (6/15). Another interesting day is Flag Day (6/14) which got us thinking, if you were to design a flag for Kara, what would it look like? What symbols might it hold? What colors might be used?
In this month’s edition of The Compassion Current, be inspired by long-time volunteer Audre Bley (22 years!), learn about the focus for next Thursday’s Caregiver’s Forum on June 9th, and get updates on our grief support groups held during the summer. We are also very excited to announce the launch our new website! You are on it! It’s the same web address, but enhanced with improved navigation, information and more streamlined ways for you to connect with us and for us to serve the community. Be one of the first to visit and explore everything it has to offer, let us know what you think, and be sure to refer it to your family, friends and colleagues.
As always, thank you for allowing us to serve the bereaved in our community.
Kara Spotlight: Audre Bley
In our Kara Spotlight section each month, we will highlight individuals from within our Kara community. This month, we highlight Audre Bley. Originally from the East Coast born in Bayside, Queens, New York, Audre moved to LA as a junior in high school. The moment she landed at LAX, after flying out of New York during a snowstorm, and saw palm trees growing out of the concrete, a bright blue sky and 70-degree temperature, she knew she had found her new home. Audre is a licensed MFT and has been a volunteer with Kara for over 22 years. Over the years she has done 1:1 counseling in the general program, as well as focusing on clients facing End of Life. She has also facilitated in a few groups but focused predominantly in the adult drop-in support group.
How did you get involved with Kara?
On Dec. 3, 1970, I received a shocking phone call from my brother-in-law. “Daddy’s dead,” he said. My father had died from a massive heart attack at the age of 46. I learned quite a bit about grief from this overwhelming and surreal experience. My “comfort” with death would lead me to volunteer at Kara, some 20 years later. In the process of starting my own psychotherapy practice, I decided I wanted to volunteer some counseling time in the community. Sue Shaffer happened to be giving a public talk and in speaking to her she suggested I volunteer at Kara.
How has your professional life influenced your work at Kara and vice versa?
Education and training as an MFT has afforded me a wide background with which to view people in all our complexities. As human beings, we share a vast range of emotional experiences that vary, based on all the known and unknown variables of our own particular lives. I continue to feel deeply honored to sit with people whose lives have been torn apart; people with amazing courage to face each new day; who open themselves to vulnerability; and who are generous with others.
What has been the most memorable moment for you in your work at Kara?
I have countless memorable moments at Kara, and they are on-going. I cherish the strange heartache and beauty of being an involved witness, on a regular basis, to people’s authentic expressions, including anger, resentment, loneliness, and depression; I witness humility, caring, generosity, compassion, and humor; all shades of the vulnerability of hearts broken open in sadness and love.
As a long-time volunteer for Kara, what are you committed to creating within the agency or within the services Kara provides to the bereaved in our community?
Kara stands for a shared humanity, and when we are able to create a safe, open, and loving space for people grieving the challenges of life and death, we break down barriers between us and inside us as well. This is an amazing gift for everyone, and I am deeply grateful.
Outside of volunteering with Kara, what are you passionate about?
I am passionate about exploring who I am, who we are as human beings, and the ways Love breaks down perceived barriers between us, and in nature. I have barely scratched the surface, but I love the journey (except when I’m kicking and screaming). I take classes at an expressive arts painting studio; and I attend a monthly poetry writing group. I also love spending time reading, hiking, and staring at animals and babies.
SUPERSURVIVORS Thank You!
Thank you to all who came out and supported us during our fundraiser last month! We had a wonderful afternoon with plenty of good food, great conversations, and amazing speakers. A special thank you goes out to Dr. David Feldman, Elsa Lopez and Chelsea Dunleavy for inspiring us with their amazing stories. With your participation and support, we raised over $95,000! These are dollars raised to help grow and further our support of the bereaved in our community. We appreciate YOU!
Spanish-Speaking Peer Support Group in the Fall:
For the first time, Kara will be offering a Spanish-speaking peer support group in the fall for parents grieving the loss of a spouse/partner along with a bilingual children’s group for children ages 5-13. The groups will meet in the same location in Palo Alto from 7:00-8:30 twice a month on Monday evenings.
Peer support groups offer a safe and supportive environment for family members to share their experiences of grief and loss. Children are able to process their grief and learn skills for coping through play and creative expression, while adults are able to participate in discussion groups where they can share stories and gain support around parenting challenges and issues they may be facing. To get more information and set up an intake interview, please contact Andrea Cordovez, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 321-5272, ext. 24.
Por primera vez, Kara va a ofrecer un grupo de apoyo en Español en el otoño para adultos en duelo por la pérdida de una pareja, o alguien quien ayudaba con el cuidado de los niños, conjuntamente con un grupo bilingüe para niños de 5-13 años. Los grupos se llevarán a cabo en Palo Alto de 7:00 – 8:30 pm dos lunes al mes. Los grupos de apoyo de par, brindan apoyo en un ambiente seguro para que las familias compartan y hablen de su experiencia con el duelo y la pérdida con otros que han pasado por algo similar. Los niños pueden procesar su duelo y aprender estrategias para afrontarlo a través del juego y la expresión creativa; mientras los adultos pueden participar en grupos de discusión alrededor de sus historias y apoyarse en las dificultades que encuentran como padres y otros asuntos por los que estén pasando. Para pedir más información y hacer una cita para una entrevista de admisión, por favor comuníquese con Andrea Cordovez, a email@example.com o al (650) 321-5272, ext. 24.
In need of volunteer hours? Have art supplies to donate?
The Youth and Family program is in need of some specific donations of time and materials listed below. We are very appreciative of any help or support and are happy to sign off on service hours for any youth/teens.
Volunteer time in July and August for organizing and refreshing the youth and family group rooms — sorting and organizing the sand tray objects; sewing repair and cleaning of pillow cases; sorting and organizing art and project supplies.
For any items that can be donated, please feel free to bring them to the Kara house and leave them with the front office. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering in July or August, feel free to email Beth Keller, Director of Youth and Family, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for your generosity and giving spirit!
Kara’s next Caregivers Forum will be held on Thursday evening June 9th and will be facilitated by Robert Cusick, a Certified Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training Instructor. The evening topic will be:
When the brutality of (chronic) illness and disease, as well as loss and grief outstrips our natural desires to ‘help’ or ‘fix,’ the fallout lands squarely on front-line caregivers, i.e., on you and me. We often then end up challenged by a sense of helplessness or overload and not infrequently, by the heaviness of burnout.
Inspired by the work of Rachel Naomi Remen, participants will have the opportunity to explore, in conversation with one another, the impact of our natural desire to help or fix – which is sometimes absolutely what’s called for and needed. But, is helping and fixing sustainable and are they the same as ‘serving?’ Rachel Naomi Remen, Medical Director of Commonweal Cancer Help Program, writes: “In fixing there is an inequality of expertise that can easily become a moral distance.” Fixing and helping may cure. Service heals.
This evening will include periods of didactic, experiential, and facilitated full group discussion. If you are, were, or are about to become a ‘caregiver’ – or just interested – you’re welcome to contribute to and learn from this important discussion. Please join us.
Light refreshments will be provided. While not required, registering for the evening helps us plan accordingly. You can sign up by clicking on the link below.
Kara offers Drop-In Grief Support Groups for adults who have experienced the death of a significant person in their life. The group provides a place for those who are grieving to share their feelings and learn about the grieving process in a safe and supportive environment. The group is facilitated by Kara’s trained peer support volunteers. There are also specific Drop-In Groups such as our Men’s and San Mateo support groups.
Please see our calendar for the next Drop-In Group being held.
A BIG Thank You from the Therapy Program!
Many, many thanks for the Sand Play Donations!
Thank you to everyone who generously (and anonymously) contributed to the sand play collection for the Clinical Therapy Program. We received both large and small donations, and each one is greatly appreciated! Know that your donations contribute in a wonderful way to the healing process of both grieving children and adults. On behalf of the interns and Therapy Program, I appreciate your generosity!
Sue Shaffer, Director of Clinical Therapy Program
P.S. The donation basket remains under the round table in the foyer for any future contributions you may wish to make. Thank you again!
PARTNER & ADVOCACY CORNER
We Are Grateful For You!
A special thank you this month goes out to TJX Foundation, The New York Life Foundation, and Alberta S. Kimball – Mary L. Anhaltzer Foundation. Their partnership and generous gifts make a real difference in the lives of children, families, and adults in our community working with their grief. WE THANK YOU!