Birdhouse project helps parents deal with grief

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — A simple project of building a birdhouse may not seem like it would be a tool to help parents who have experienced the death of a child.

But for a local chapter of Day by Day, group leaders are hoping a birdhouse can serve as more than just a tool in the healing process for grieving parents.

Norman Hargett, of Florence, who is leading the birdhouse project for Day by Day, said it’s a simple project that can have a huge impact.

“It is a project that is kind of a self-help for people to find their way after they’ve been through a tragedy,” Hargett said.

Hargett attended a conference in which Day by Day leaders were taught how to implement the birdhouse project into their own chapters.

“It is an opportunity for people to share things that happened in their life that will help them on this grief journey,” Hargett said.

Hargett and his wife Nena lost their son, Robert, in 1989 and founded the local chapter of Day by Day shortly thereafter.

The two have been involved in the local group — which is a non-therapeutic support group — ever since. Meetings are held the second Sunday of every month at Woodmont Baptist Church’s East Campus in Florence.

Participants will work on the birdhouse project at the next meeting on Sept. 14.

There is no charge to participate and build a birdhouse, however, registration is requested by calling 256-764-8093 or emailing anita.watkins@comcast.net to ensure there will be enough kits available for attendees.

The kits include the patterns and wood needed to build a birdhouse.

Hargett said each piece of the birdhouse, from the walls, roof and foundation, all have a significance.

Participants will write specific things on each piece and the writing will face inside the birdhouse. Hargett gave an example for the house foundation.

“They may have friends and family holding them up, they may put all their faith in God,” Hargett said. “It may be the fact that their child died and they want to continue to be sure that he’s never forgotten. There will be a number of things listed on the foundation.”

Another piece will have regrets and another will have crisis. The back will have affirmations, positive things they can do to overcome the grief. The front will have goals.

“And, of course, the top itself is the shelter,” Hargett said. “That’s where we put the people who help us.”

Nena said she expects a lot of the members of their group will put Day By Day at the top.

“There are a lot of good grief groups, but there is only one grief group for parents whose child has died,” Nena said. “We can share anything in that group. Even our child. We love to share about our children.”

Then they’ll be able to decorate the birdhouse however they want.

“It can be something your child has loved or something that your child loved,” Nena Hargett said. “We’re anxious to see how everyone decorates their own and brings it back for us to see.”

Participants will be able to put things into the birdhouse — small mementos or letters.

The top will be screwed in, so after a year or two they, can retrieve the mementos and read what they had written on the walls.

“That is therapeutic,” Hargett said. “Because sometimes we don’t realize that we’re really better than we think we are.”

 

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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