MaryBeth Koenes and her two children, Beckam and MaryBella (ages 5 and 7 at the time) started attending grief support groups at The WARM Place in February 2017. It was six months after the death of their father, Tyrel, who completed suicide. MaryBeth turned to The WARM Place for guidance in the wake of grief as a single mom with two young children.
“You never think you’ll experience the death of a loved one. You don’t picture yourself ever sitting in circles of grieving spouses and parents. You can’t imagine your life without all the very important people in it. But when it happens to you, all you can do is hope it won’t take you down…” said MaryBeth.
After attending their first group, MaryBeth said she instantly saw a change in her children, especially MaryBella. The change was in their perspective of knowing that they are not alone. They were no longer the only children who didn’t have a daddy. MaryBeth saw a change in herself as well. She felt like she had found her place and her community. The WARM Place, she said, was her haven.
“I tell people The WARM Place was my lifeline for the first two years after their dad’s death because no one knows how to handle grief and grieving children on their own. There’s a learning curve there.” Since then, The WARM Place has become like a home for the Koenes family. MaryBeth says she and her children have made lifelong friends in the most unlikely way. “I never thought I would meet the kind of friends I found during the darkest time of my life.”
After two years of attending grief support groups at The WARM Place, the Koenes family decided to close out of group. “The WARM Place gave me the tools and the resources and the support and the eye contact and the hugs and the tears and the Kleenex to get through where I could get stable enough to do it on my own.”
Even though they may not attend group anymore, the Koenes family still stays involved with The WARM Place through different events. They try to attend all the Family Nights they can, which are open to past, current, and future WARM Place families. They also enjoy participating in the Race 2 Remember Them every year, where they can race in memory of their dad. These opportunities allow them to continue to enjoy WARM Place community and fellowship, as well as give them chances to honor and remember their dad.
MaryBeth shares this closing thought: “People ask: How on earth did you handle that? How did you do that on your own with your kids?...[I tell them] The WARM Place. In one answer, that’s it. I tell everybody there’s this place. It’s a center for grieving families.”
Today, MaryBella is 10 and Beckam is 8. MaryBeth works as a life coach, helping others process and navigate emotional pain. To watch to the Koenes family’s full story, visit thewarmplace.org/Koenes.