Above: (L-R) Jennifer Wiles, director of Children's Services, CareGroup Parmenter; Joe Harrold, corporate vice-president, New York Life; Jeanette Clough, president, Mount Auburn Hospital; and Donna Silva, president, CareGroup Parmenter Home Care & Hospice.
Finding support for grieving kids can be difficult, but it’s even scarcer for children with disabilities. Through a two-year, $100,000 Grief Reach grant from the New York Life Foundation, dance/movement therapist Jennifer Wiles ’86 will work to expand services for youth with special needs.
“Every grieving child need support,” says Wiles, director of Children’s Services at CareGroup Parmenter Home Care & Hospice/Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. As a student in our graduate dance/movement therapy program, Wiles was drawn to bereavement work, in particular focused on children.
“I feel that in order to really access their emotions, people need to move and they need to be aware of what is embodied in them as far as emotions and grief,” she says. For kids, dance/movement therapy encourages community, creativity, empathy and openness.
In her sessions, Wiles says, “We spend a lot of time moving before we talk. We all feel things in our bodies. We feel sadness, we feel anger, we feel joy. Once we recognize those feelings inside of us, it’s easier to express them.”
Wiles has more than 30 years of experience working with kids, including the last nine years directing Mount Auburn’s HEARTplay program, which offers free grief support for youth individually in their homes, as well as in group settings. Through her work, Wiles has seen an increasing need for bereavement therapy for children, teens and young adults with disabilities.