Grief is an inevitable part of the human experience.
A Haven, an Exton-based nonprofit that supports grieving children through a family-centered approach, is an invaluable resource for those who have experienced the death of a loved one, like Tim Birnley and his daughter, Madison. They lost wife and mother Claudia after a seven-year battle with breast cancer.
The Birnleys already had a connection to A Haven through the president of its board of directors, Mary Ann Hughes, who was a friend of Claudia’s. After her passing, A Haven was there for Tim and Madison to let them know they weren’t alone.
They started to attend the Parent Loss Family Group, which allowed them to connect with other grieving families who were at different stages of healing.
“Grief isn’t linear,” said Madison. “That’s one thing that A Haven talks about. It changes day by day, hour by hour.”
The meetings covered a lot of ground and discussed activities that Madison could do to honor her mother, like making a slideshow of pictures. In addition to the family meetings, Tim attended a parent/adult group for three months, while Madison started participating in Teen Only Night.
A Haven’s Teen Only Night offers them a place to share their experiences and listen to one another without fear of being judged. Madison said that some nights are more emotional than others, but no one is forced to talk if they do not want to.
“Compassion and empathy are really second to none in an organization like this where you have to ask questions like ‘What next?’ and ‘How can I raise my child as a single parent?’” said Tim. “They help you navigate pieces of life’s puzzle and make it easier to walk through holidays and interactions with others.”
By giving teens the chance to talk about their loss, it also helps grieving parents and spouses find peace in their situation.
“A Haven does a fantastic job of taking grief and breaking it down into a consumable process,” he said. “They take the difficult subject of death and turn it into a position where you can continue to walk forward.”
Indeed, A Haven aims to normalize grief and help the grieving understand that it’s a universal experience.
“I would recommend A Haven to anyone,” said Madison. “It’s an opportunity to gain, with nothing to lose.”
If your family is grieving or know of a family who is, please contact A Haven. All of its services are offered at no cost to families. Learn more.