An Interview with Amanda Baldwin

Can you tell us about yourself and how you got involved with Bridges of Hope?
After moving to Charleston in 2016 from Pennsylvania, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity in the community. I had previously volunteered with an organization that provided grief services to children so when I found Bridges of Hope, it felt like a great fit. I started volunteering at Shannon’s Hope Camp as a facilitator and two years ago, I started a Sand Dollar Club at the school I currently work at.

What is your day job or focus?
I’m a nurse with a background in pediatric psychiatric-mental health. I currently work as a nurse at Allegro Charter School of Music with children in grades 6-12.

Why is grief support for children/teens important to you?
In working with children/teens over the past fifteen years, I’ve seen the direct impact that grief and loss has had on their emotional well-being. Many feel alone in how they are feeling or feel as though the way they’re feeling isn’t normal. Sometimes adults in their lives are grieving themselves, worry about saying the wrong thing, or feel uncomfortable talking about death/grief. This can lead to children not having the opportunity to learn and work through their grief. Because of this, it’s so important that we have dedicated programs like Bridges of Hope for children to give them this safe space with both peers and adults who understand!

What have you learned about grief, loss, life/death through your experience?
That we don’t have to have the answers, fix anything, or have the right words to say. The most beneficial thing we can do is be there with a listening ear, open heart, and give them the space to share their story however they are able to. Also, through my own experience with grief, I’ve learned that the grieving process never ends. Our lives can again be filled with joy and peace mixed with times of sadness and remembrance. This is all okay.

Tell us about the impact (a story/anecdote/a-ha moment) of our grief support programs that you’ve seen first-hand.
I currently work as a school nurse and we had memory tables available for students during the holidays. One moment that was particularly memorable to me, was seeing a student who had recently lost a loved one engage in making a luminary. This student had been having difficulty processing and talking about his loss. By creating the luminary, these emotions came to the surface and he became tearful, which he later said was the first time he let these emotions out since losing his loved one. Other students came to comfort him and shared stories of people they had lost. Amidst the daily grind of a school setting, it was a great moment to see them sit with their emotions and receive the support they needed from peers to normalize and process their grief.

What do you do for fun? How do you practice self-care?
I enjoy exercising and being outdoors so many days, I come home to my garage gym, open the garage door, and exercise. Despite how I’m feeling before (tired, unmotivated, frustrated), I always feel better after getting some movement even if just for a short time. I also love doing anything outdoors – kayaking, beach lounging, walking, bike riding, or swimming!

We are so grateful to have people like Amanda in our community. We couldn’t do the work we do without our amazing partners like you Amanda. Thanks for all you do!