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Health Check: Friends Way

Friends Way is the only family bereavement center in Rhode Island, serving families throughout Southeastern New England. (WJAR)

Thursday is Children’s Grievance Awareness Day.

It’s always held on the third Thursday in November as a reminder about the needs of children after a loss and the importance of support.

In Rhode Island, that support can be found through Friends Way.

Seth Poling has fond memories of his mother, Sherry.

“Her favorite thing to do with me was whenever she had the day off was to go to eat and go to the movies,” Seth said.

Rita McNamar said she remained very close to her sister, who was Seth’s mom, even though many miles separated them. McNamar lived in Rhode Island with her husband and two kids, while her sister was in West Virginia.

"Sherry shared that if anything ever happened to her, because she was a single mom, that she'd want my husband and I to take Seth," McNamar said.

That comment was made thinking it would never happen. But in May 2011, Sherry became very ill with a bad infection.

"And she was admitted in to the hospital at 4:30 in the afternoon and passed away at 4:30 in the morning," McNamar said.

Soon after, Seth came to live with his family in Rhode Island.

Others shared similar stories.

Joshua King recalls his father, Tracy King.

“My dad, he was so fun,” Joshua said. “He was a big kid. He was crazy strong."

His father became nationally known being able to balance heavy, large objects on his face. It was a blow when he died in the Station nightclub fire in February 2003.

"He actually came out and ended up going back in and helping other people get out," Joshua said.

Both Seth and Joshua landed at Friends Way, which is Rhode Island's only family bereavement center.

"This is the club that nobody wants to belong to but they come in here a bit timid (and) they open up with smiles," said Ryan Loiselle, a program director at Friends Way.

The non-profit organization serves families throughout Southeastern New England.

"Before we got here, I thought it was a horrible idea,” Seth said. “But immediately after the first five minutes when everyone said their names, why they were there and how their last two weeks had been, I knew that it was perfect."

"The way that I describe Friends Way is that life is like a pressure cooker and especially with grief that all builds up,” said McNamar. “And when we come to Friends Way, it's like a pressure is released."

Joshua, who benefitted from years of support, is now giving back, as he now facilitates support groups.

"Thanks to Friends Way, I can talk about my dad with a smile on my face," he said

For more on Friends Way, click here.

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