Preparing children for loss

Returning to my hometown to raise our children has provided a lot of wonderful opportunities for our family. One of the most wonderful in my mind, though, has been the chance for our young son to get to know and spend a good deal of time with my own grandparents. I feel like it is such a gift!

My grandparents delight in seeing my son growing and discovering the world, and my son seems to truly enjoy the time we spend with them. Over his short lifetime their health has been deteriorating, and he has watched as our family has assisted them more and more. As a result, he has adjusted accordingly. His hugs and kisses have become more gentle. He is watchful and careful (as a 3-year-old can be) when playing near them. He also asks if they are okay, aware that they are not always comfortable. While their failing health is incredibly difficult for everyone, it seems to be affording him valuable life lessons in compassion at a young age.

Recently an extended hospital stay provided a stark reminder for my husband and I that sooner than later we would need to prepare our son for the most challenging of life’s lessons – there will be an end. Before we are faced with the grief of a loss, we are hoping to provide him with a bit of preparation. But in spite of my role here, I was at a bit of a loss on how best to approach explaining death and grief to my child. After a bit of research, I thought it would be helpful to share the tips I’ve gathered:

  1. Be honest with your children about what is happening to their loved one. Children are more aware than we realize when something is wrong, but they need our guidance and explanations to know how to process the experience.
  2. Be welcoming of their questions and do your best to answer them all as simply as possible. Try to keep your answers appropriate for their level of development and try not to overload them. If you don’t know the answers to their questions, say so.
  3. Avoid euphemisms that may cause confusion and frighten your child, such as “sleeping forever.”
  4. Allow your child to be involved in care-taking duties and to visit their loved one. Again, answer any questions or concerns that may arise from these visits.
  5. Don’t hide your own emotions from your child. Sharing and explaining how you feel can help your child learn to process and share their own emotions.

Your child’s first experience with loss will do much to shape their lifelong views of death and grief. And more than anything that you can tell your child, the behavior you model during this difficult time will also shape the way they process grief. It is important that we don’t allow our own fears and taboos to limit us in our ability to help our children.

For further information, I highly recommend the articles linked below:

When a Grandparent Dies

8 Ways to Prepare Your Young Child for a Grandparent’s Death 

Talking to Children About Death

Helping Children Cope with Bereavement

 

Ohio Cemetery Law Task Force

We’ve been honored to be involved this year with the work of the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of Real Estate as their newly formed Cemetery Law Task Force endeavors to review and revise the cemetery laws for the state. To their credit, the Cemetery Law Task Force has done a wonderful job of inviting testimony from and considering the concerns of many interested parties – tribal councils, archaeologists, genealogists, historians, cemeterians, local municipalities and veterans affairs, among many others.

While we don’t know what the results of their efforts and hearings will be, we are very encouraged at the interest the Task Force has shown in natural burial. We have been happy to provide testimony of our concerns and to share information on our operations.

Though the Task Force will not release their recommendations until October, it is possible for anyone interested to follow along with their progress through their meeting minutes posted on their website. We will pass along any pertinent changes here as they are announced.

Serving generations

Last Saturday we threw a birthday party for The Wilderness Center. Founder’s Day was a chance for us to celebrate 50 years serving our community!

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In addition to the festivities (what party is complete without ice cream?!), we shared historical photos and stories from our 50 years, and our hopes and dreams for where the next 50 years will take us together.

It also proved to be a chance to celebrate our shared histories with our members and friends. We were delighted that so many of our members were eager to share their memories and experiences from the past 5 decades. RegulaFoundersDay14_smallIt was amazing to hear from our original founders and those that grew up exploring these trails – including our current board president, Andy Haag, whose parents were founding members!

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Knowing that we have been a part of people’s lives for generations makes us incredibly proud.

During the celebration, a couple approached me for information about Foxfield Preserve. They have been married for 50 years and went on a walk in Sigrist Woods for their very first date. Over the years they brought children and grandchildren here for hikes and programs. They told me that now, though they can’t hike the trails like they used to, they enjoy watching the birds in the Wildlife Observation Room. Now they are interested in burial at Foxfield, knowing that they will spend eternity where they first began to fall in love.

What an honor to be a touchstone in the lives of others – to serve them from their earliest steps until the end of their days. It was a lovely celebration, and a wonderful reminder of what we have meant to the community and what we should continue to strive for in the future.

Exploring and making memories

In my last blog post “Exploring with Dad,” I talked about how much I learned from the little adventures I used to take in the woods with my father. Last weekend at Foxfield, we had a chance to share the adventure of the journey with people attending our Father’s Day Exploration Hike.

Our attendees enjoyed a lovely, sunny morning stroll through the Preserve with TWC volunteer naturalist, Sam Weaver. The group, which included 3 fathers and their sons, identified the wildflowers blooming on the prairie and enjoyed watching the tree swallows swooping overhead after various insects. We spied on fledgling bluebirds in the boxes along the edges of the prairie (aren’t they adorable little naked things?!), and learned about the incredible dramas unfolding within a goldenrod gall.

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It was an excellent day for learning and exploring – and for making memories.

Exploring with Dad

When I was little, there was nothing better than heading into the woods or fields with my father for a little exploring. Though he may have intended to hunt for morels or arrowheads, we girls usually ended up searching for fairies beneath the may apples or building dams in the stream. Though we all usually came back empty-handed, it was the exploration and all we experienced along the way that was the highlight of the day.

I see that excitement now in my son, as he eagerly pulls out his boots and asks Daddy or Grandpa to take him on a ‘venture in the woods. I recognize the joy of setting out to see what you can discover, knowing that the search will be your reward.

Creek4Aside from many special moments spent with my father, these walks also taught me many things. I learned that you need to take time to find joy in the journey; something I am constantly reminded of in my work at Foxfield. These hikes also encouraged me to continue developing my curiosity and adventurous spirit, as the most wonderful discoveries rewarded the inquisitive and bold (along with wet shoes and dirty pants – but those were a small price to pay).

While there are many gifts and lessons our fathers may impart, these are the ones I will be celebrating this year. What will you celebrate in your relationship with your father?

This year we’ll be hosting an Exploration Hike at Foxfield this Saturday at 10 a.m. in honor of Father’s Day. If you would like to experience the joy of this journey, please join us to see what you might find along the way!

The natural burial movement

I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. Frankly, I was always raised to believe that your actions and deeds should speak for themselves.

Over the past 6 years, our actions at Foxfield Preserve really have spoken volumes. We’ve introduced and championed the natural burial movement in Ohio, promoting a burial alternative that conserves natural resources, protects lands and provides funding for nature education and conservation. And along the way we have provided many families with peace and a meaningful farewell. I’d say those actions speak pretty clearly of our principles and values! (Toot! Toot!) tuba In fact, we believe so deeply in the work that we are doing, that we are also actively working to help others set-up similar operations. Foxfield has been offering advice and consulting services to several organizations, but we are incredibly proud to share the exciting progress of one right here in Ohio. We have been sharing our experiences and guidance with the Philander Chase Land Trust of Kenyon College for several years as they worked to develop their own natural burial ground – which is expected to open near Columbus in 2015!

We’re so proud to be paving the path for others to follow in our footsteps, and so happy that Ohio will have another great alternative for simple, natural burials. We look forward to more forces joining us in this groundswell towards sustainable burial practices. Congratulations to Philander Chase!

Bird Drama

On an overcast day last week, I was taking a family up to Foxfield to choose their burial plot. Winter dealt a heavy blow to our country roads here, so our progress was slowed a bit to accommodate the bumpy terrain. A lucky thing for us, as it turns out, because it afforded us the time to notice a bright flash of red in the TWC forest edging Alabama Avenue. My companions exclaimed at the bright cardinal, but a second look proved that we were looking at two beautiful scarlet tanagers.

Scarlet Tanager

This has kicked off a week with the return of lots of beautiful birds to our area. Our naturalists and friends have been reporting sightings on our TWC property with excitement, as some of our favorites have been appearing. Over the last several days our naturalists and docents have returned to the Interpretive Building with news of warblers singing in our woods – common yellow warblers, a golden-winged warbler and cerulean warblers. One of our naturalists even spotted a barred owl while walking one of the trails!

female yellow warbler1You don’t even need to venture far from the Interpretive Building to spot some of the new arrivals. Near the Lakeview Shelter a yellow-breasted chat has been busily singing away. Our feeders were hosting a male and female grosbeak earlier this week. Our hummingbird feeder is finally seeing the return of the first hummingbirds of the summer, but has also been serving an oriole this week.

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Up on the Preserve there are bluebirds nesting happily in our houses around the prairie. One momma is even sitting on 5 little eggs! My most recent stroll through the cemetery was even marked by the soundtrack of one of our many mockingbirds.

Bluebird Eggs

With all of this activity, our Mother’s Day Bird Watch this Saturday should be a very exciting event! All are welcome to join us – experienced birdwatchers and beginners alike. Bring your own binoculars (or borrow some of ours) and meet us at the TWC Interpretive Building at 9 a.m. There should be plenty of beautiful birds to see!

Spring has arrived

Spring has finally arrived here at TWC! And it showed up today in little pots in the back of a box truck.

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This weekend we’re holding our annual Native Plant Sale. For the employees here, the Plant Sale really heralds the beginning of spring – planting season!

This afternoon I’ll be busily tagging all the plants that are approved for planting on the Preserve. Then we’ll be packing up shovels, watering cans, and other tools to be ready for tomorrow’s Planting Day. If you have a loved one buried at the Preserve, or have purchased a plot, please come join us to add your selections to the natural beauty of Foxfield.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than by getting a little dirt between my fingers. Come join us – I’ll have a shovel waiting for you!

 

Burn, Baby, Burn!

Over the course of our rough winter, the towering grasses on the prairie have been blown over. They now lay atop of last year’s fallen flowers and grasses, as the new growth on the prairie works to emerge from this layer of fallen vegetation. Amidst this dense carpeting, industrious squirrels and birds have been busily adding trees, shrubberies and other woody vegetation. To maintain this important ecosystem, it is necessary to remove these woody plants.

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Prairies were once maintained by grazing bisons and naturally occurring fires. To remove these unwanted plant varieties from our prairie now, TWC staff perform a prescribed burn. When weather conditions are just right – humidity, temperature, wind direction and speed – careful application of fire will remove these encroaching species and provide vital nutrients to encourage healthy growth. As the Foxfield prairie continues to become more established, our hope is that burns will only become necessary every 3-5 years.

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This year’s burn took place on our lower prairie. It was incredibly successful, and all thanks goes to the TWC burn crew. Though the ground looks blackened and charred now, it won’t take long for that to change. We can’t wait to share photos in the coming weeks as the prairie begins to flourish! Stop by and watch nature’s amazing progress.

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Earth Day – Give Back

This year, because of the way Easter falls on the calendar, the Wilderness Center will be celebrating Earth Day on April 12. In the spirit of education, outreach and activism in which the event was founded in 1970, TWC events will cover a wide variety of topics to inform visitors and encourage them to embrace and protect our natural world. The line-up looks pretty exciting!

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We’ll learn about the wildlife around us during a bird walk to kick off the day, and by going on naturalist lead walks throughout the day to look for turtles, snakes and salamanders. Kids (and their parents) will have the chance to take part in an interactive story walk winding along the trail to the Wilderness Lake. The Backpackers and Hikers Club will be providing demonstrations to encourage us to join them in exploring the natural world. The Nature Photo Club will be displaying the beautiful entries in their annual Foto Fest contest – and you don’t want to miss your chance to vote for your favorites!

Earth Day clean-up crews will be busy throughout the day doing their part to remove litter and invasive species from TWC’s grounds. This year awareness of invasive species will also take a delicious turn with a garlic mustard cook-off. Hey, maybe we’ll beat ‘em by eating ‘em! I, for one, am looking forward to seeing the recipes that folks come up with!

Gary eats Garlic Mustard

(They’re sure to be tastier than Gary’s!)

In the midst of all these events celebrating our world, we’ll be offering a presentation on the ultimate way to give back to the earth – natural burial. We’ll have a presentation on natural burial and then go tour the Foxfield Preserve.

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It should be an amazing day! See you there!