A place for healing

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Like most people, Jarl Peterson didn’t give death much thought until it hit home when his son committed suicide.

“People would tell me, ‘did you hear that so and so was killed in a car wreck or somebody’s mom died’ and it wasn’t tangible to me. I was sorry to hear that happened, but that was about as far as my mind could take it,” Peterson said. “Then having experienced death and realizing how significant that kind of a loss is for an individual; it changed my entire life. My whole life is different.”

To seek help with the mourning process, Peterson turned to the James Avery Center for Grief Support and Recovery in Longview. He has attended the center’s “Survivors of Suicide Loss” group since December 2017.

“At that point in my life, that was probably the single most important thing that I had going on each week,” Peterson said. “People would probably say this is a little dramatic, but I really think this program saved my life.”

As a way to say “thank you,” Peterson donated a bench he made from the maple trees in his yard in honor of his son to the new Community Home Health & Hospice (CHHH) Seasons of Hope Grief Center and Memorial Garden in Salmon Creek. Peterson said his son had cut the two pieces of wood they used to build the bench with for a project he never got to before he died.

“Just by a fluke, the wood was out in the yard and my wife said ‘we should save this.’ I thought about how much sentimental value it had to me,” he said.

“After building the bench, it became very clear that hospice was the place to put it. The stars lined up here. This is a new center. They’re building a new garden. We asked if they wanted it and they gladly accepted,” he added. “It’s a beautiful bench. It will be nice to have it in a place where it’s not going to get vandalized. It’s going to be utilized for the purpose that we want it to be utilized for.”

Seasons of Hope Grief Center has dedicated spaces for children, teens and adults. There are meeting areas as well as rooms for quiet time. A service kitchen welcomes people to share meals. The adjoining Memorial Garden offers beauty and peace year round. 

CHHH President and CEO Greg Pang and Social Worker and Volunteer Coordinator Erin Orren know this $3.25 million Seasons of Hope grief center would not have been possible without all of the donations and support from citizens. 

“Everything that you see in here, every bit of furniture, has been donated,” Orren said. “It’s a reflection of this community. It’s unbelievable how generous this community is.”

For example, the Circle Room inside features 29 stained glass panels designed by Portland artist David Schlicker. The room takes on a whole new feeling when the sunlight shines through those panels and illuminates the circle with natural beauty.

“The first time I walked into that room when the panels were up, I just cried,” Orren said. “To see it really here and happening and ready to be used is just so overwhelming because I know there’s such a need.”

It hit home for Pang when the Seasons of Hope stained glass panel was placed above the Circle Room.



“When that went up, it was like a dream come true. We’re actually here,” he said. “We took that window to different fundraising events to give people a vision of what this is going to be. And then to is it in it’s home finally … ‘Oh wow! I can’t believe this is happening.’ It was really cool.”

As Pang watched the seasonal panels go up over the next three days, he knew this was going to be a very healing place for people.

“If you live on this planet, grief will be a part of your story,” he said. “You are not alone. You are never alone. You can come to this place, share your story, find encouragement, and find health and support.”

According to Orren, this is phase two for the Vancouver campus after the care center opened in 2015.

“We take care of a lot of patients, and therefore, we have double that amount of bereaved,” she explained. “I feel like there’s not somebody that you run into that doesn’t have grief. There’s so many layers to it. We just want to make sure people know that we’re here to serve. Making it free to people who have used hospice and free to people who haven’t at any age.”

Although people might be hesitant to join these groups, Orren shares the benefits.

“There’s the benefit of belonging; helping others and helping yourself through the give and take,” she said. “Grief is normal. Everybody faces it. You can get good insight from other people and find that there’s rich knowledge. If somebody is a couple months ahead of you in grief, it might give up that I’m going to get over this hump.”

Orren adds that grief is something everybody has to go through at some point in their life. People can’t deny it without having mental, physical or emotional consequences.

“When we put on those blinders and think we’re going to get over it … it just doesn’t work,” she said. “My hope is that this place will be a place of healing. We will help people get over those humps. Grief is not something we want to deal with. It doesn’t feel good. But at the end, I think we find the healing that does come. That’s my hope.”

Visit chhh.org to learn about groups offered.

{{tncms-inline content="<p class="p1"><span class="s1">Seasons of Hope Grief Center and Memorial Garden</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">3102 NE 134th St. in Vancouver</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">(360) 425-8510</span></p>" id="72a86433-3a66-44d4-975c-9028c6aeba32" style-type="fact" title="If You Go" type="relcontent"}}

{{tncms-inline content="<p class="p1"><span class="s1">A grand opening will be held 4 – 6:30 p.m., Wed., March 6.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">A ribbon cutting will be held at 4:30 p.m. There will also be refreshments, live music and prizes.<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s1">RSVP: event@chhh.org or 360.414.5408.</span></p>" id="5513ce44-71c3-4aac-89d2-d85f3f219f2d" style-type="bio" title="Tour the facility " type="relcontent"}}

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