With a small bundle of sticks laced with sprigs of rosemary, the Providence Hospice of Seattle is giving adults, children and families a safe—and meaningful—opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one.
During their twice-yearly autumnal bonfire event, which began 12 years ago, the Providence Hospice of Seattle invites all to participate in honoring those they’ve lost to a serious or terminal illness.
“Each of the events that we do is built is around bringing folks togethers in community with one another that have had something similar in their life that’s happened,” says Beverly Goldsmith, coordinator of the Safe Crossings Children’s Grief Support Program of Providence Hospice of Seattle. “We give them an opportunity to honor the person in their life that they’ve lost.”
In addition to s’mores, hot dogs and a warm fire, the event, held October 22, is an activity-based grief support celebration, where attendees are invited to create something to honor their loved one; in this case, the activity includes paper heart messages tucked inside bundles of kindling and rosemary—the herb of remembrance—that are later put into the fire during an evening group-circle ceremony.
The event has been attended in past years by as many as 75 people, but no matter the number of participants or their ages, Goldsmith says it has proved a meaningful experience for all.
“The bonfires have just become a part of what we do,” Goldsmith says. “It’s all about the community, of coming together and also about adults being able to see their children having fun and being happy. That’s what they deserve, to just have opportunities to have continued happiness in their life. It’s one of those events that we can offer that really focuses on that, but at the same time, gives them opportunity to do something very poignant. It’s always a beautiful event that families can do together, regardless of if 20 people—or 70—show up.”
The bonfire events happens in both fall and winter at Alki Beach in West Seattle. Families, adults, children and youth of all ages are invited to attend. Goldsmith says that if a large group of teens attend, they will have their own separate fire. Providence counselors even read children a grief-related book before the activity.
“What I hear from some of the adults is how much it makes them feel even less alone, like they’re not the only ones out there that are facing these kinds of things,” Goldsmith says. “It brings them hope to see kids having fun together that have been through things like this. It’s not just the fire, and the marshmallows, and the hot dogs; it’s this camaraderie that develops with the adults and the kids. They always say it’s so meaningful for them.”
Along with periodic events, Providence Hospice of Seattle offers a variety of grief support services, including in-home and in-office counseling, workshops, bereavement groups, children and teen camps, and more, all at no cost.
“I know I speak for myself and all the counselors when I say that it’s really a blessing for us to be able to have this opportunity,” Goldsmith says. “For us to have the honor of being invited to offer whatever guidance we can offer them and support, it nourishes our own souls.”
The Autumn Bonfire event will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 22, 2016, at Alki Beach Park in West Seattle. The group will gather at a fire pit south of the Bathhouse, 2701 Alki Ave. SW.