NAPLES, Fla. — All of us experience grief at some point in our lives - and it's especially tough for the young to cope with the death of a loved one. But a brand new facility in Naples is opening to try to make that burden a little easier to handle. Tuesday, Avow Hospice held an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony for Aunt Janet's House at Avow's campus on Whippoorwill Lane. The home-like setting is designed to foster healthy coping skills for kids coping with loss.
"We thought it would be just a little more inviting," said Natalie Gonzalez, Manager of Supportive Care at Avow. "We wanted to create a safe place for kids that feels like home."
The most unique place in the house is the "Grief Cave" - a room with a black light where kids can write anything they want on the walls with neon markers. The house also features a kitchen, outdoor and indoor play spaces, and rooms for art and music therapy.
"It helps to give them some of those tools to express what maybe their words can't say right now," Gonzalez said.
Krystel Rutland and her three children are dealing with two tough losses at once - the recent deaths of the kids' dad and grandmother.
"The kids have seen me go through a hard time, and (Avow's counselors) are there for them while I'm still going through my stuff," Rutland said.
She said Aunt Janet's House will provide an oasis for her children as they work through their grief.
"Just have a good time, get away from life's challenges, and enjoy their youth and childhood," Rutland said.
Gonzalez said that Avow's grief counseling services expanded last year to include helping kids who may experience loss in ways other than the death of a loved one. Those include separation due to divorce, deportation, incarceration, and military deployment.
Aunt Janet's House is named after local philanthropist Janet Cohen.