Solace Tree Reaches Out As Families Mourn

By Erin Breen

At 34, Emilio Parga is full of life. He is fit, energetic and enthusiastic about his plans. It has taken him years of living to realize that his calling is in educating us about death.

“I have lost so many family members and friends,” he said. “When I was 11 years old, I lost my biological father. And there really wasn’t anyone there to talk to about it. I needed to hear from other kids who had lived through that kind of loss.”

When he was 14, Parga was hit by a truck while he was skateboarding with friends. That accident left him in a coma. He has scars that will last a lifetime.

“I started high school in a body cast,” he said. “Most of the kids who knew me didn’t know what to say or how to treat me, so they avoided me.”

As a second-grade teacher and counselor, Parga saw other young children who had lost parents or family members. He saw them searching for support, just as he had done years earlier. Then he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. During his own battle back to health, again, his future became clear.

” I could just feel it,” he said. “I was put here to help all kids understand and cope with these losses. I understand loss. I’ve been through it, and I can help.”

That was just two years ago. Parga has moved forward to make it happen. He has immersed himself in bereavement and grief counseling. He has met with

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Solace Tree Artwork Qualifies Runner-up In Hospice Foundation of America’s New Book

The Solace Tree artwork will be presented at the Hospice Foundation of America’s 15th Annual National Living With Grief: Children and Adolescents teleconference and in their new book. The artwork will show examples of how children and adolescents use creative expression to cope with the loss of a loved one. The five paintings chosen by … Read moreSolace Tree Artwork Qualifies Runner-up In Hospice Foundation of America’s New Book

The Solace Tree Celebrates 5th Anniversary

The Solace Tree celebrated its fifth anniversary on Thursday. The nonprofit center provides free peer support groups for youths 2 to 18 and their parents who have experienced the death of someone they love.

Founded by Emilio Parga, the center has helped more than 2,000 children and adults work through their grief.

On Wednesday evening, teens, adults and children congregated in various rooms of the brick house in north Reno to share memories about their loved ones who had died.

Virginia Briggs of Sparks started attending peer support groups in September after three close relatives died within six months: her husband, her father and her mother-in-law.

“It’s my outlet for talking about loss when others are in similar situations,” she said.

Her three children, ages 11, 9 and 5, were having sleeping problems and showing a lot of anger after their father died, she said.

“We talk about their father every day,” Briggs said. “They get so excited about what they are going to share when they come (to the Solace Tree.)”

Her children have friendships with other youngsters at the center who’ve gone through similar losses. Their school friends can’t relate to her children’s situation, Briggs said.

Shauna Colestock of Sparks has two sons, ages 5 and 7, whose father died suddenly last year.

The Solace Tree has helped her to “have someone to talk to who understands,” she said.

“Everybody grieves in their own way and life does get better” are two of the concepts Colestock said she’s taken away from her sessions at the Solace Tree.

Colestock said her

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Washoe Family Magazine – Finding Solace At Camp

Originally posted in Washoe Family Magazine, April 2007 –

In times of grief and sadness, there’s no better way to find comfort than breathing in fresh air and soaking up sunlight. That’s why for two weekends each year, 34 children, 16 adolescents, 25 volunteer facilitators, two nurses, a cook and two camp leaders gather in the great outdoors for bereavement camp.

In 2002, the Solace Tree was created as this community’s first non-profit organization to assist families and children with bereavement. When loved ones die, children and adults are faced with a tremendous range of feelings, which come and go at different times. These new emotions and the challenges of grief are diffcult pieces to fit into daily life, which is why we felt it was important to create a sort of escape, in the form of bereavement camp — some place to get away, if only for a few days, to become rejuvenated, to deal with feelings and to soak up that sunshine.

Our first camp, in the summer of 2006, was so popular that we, unfortunately, had to turn away 32 children and adolescents, simply due to a lack of space. We decided that from then on, we would hold bereavement camp two weekends a year, once in summer and once in fall.

These two camps — Camp Solace, held at majestic Glenbrook at Lake Tahoe, and Camp HUG at Eagle Lake — are both designed to help kids, ages 7 to 17, to grieve in a safe environment, as they learn healthy

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