Q&A: C2H2 Founder Michelle Noble

The Ardmore resident has opened a support center in King of Prussia for children coping with death, grieving and healing. Here, she offers insight on kids and grief.

Photo by Jared CastaldiIt’s never a fun conversation to have—that sit-down talk where you share the news of a loved one’s death with friends and family, especially kids. Ardmore’s Michelle Noble knows the routine all too well. She’s a certified child-life specialist, a mission volunteer and founder of King of Prussia’s C2H2 (Compassion, Comfort, Healing, Hope), a free community support program that helps the area’s children and their families cope with death, grieving and healing in a safe and nurturing space. 

MLT: How is C2H2 different from more conventional grief options like individual therapy and family counseling?
The whole point is the peer-to-peer experience. Bringing kids together who’ve gone through something similar lets them know they’re not alone, especially in the school systems. You have one kid that may have lost a parent, and the others don’t know what to say or do, and the child knows they’re being talked about. This way, we bring them together so they know they’re not the only ones to go through this experience. We provide an outlet for expression in a creative way, which empowers children to find ways to honor their loved ones. 

MLT: What’s your background?
I was a child-life specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Cancer Center, helping them through the whole process, teaching them about things like hair loss, and preparing them for different procedures, from IVs to spinal taps.

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MLT: And you’ve done some mission work.
Last year, I did 11 months in 11 countries through Adventures in Missions, a Gainesville, Ga., organization. I spent a month in every country; I partnered with schools, orphanages, churches and after-school programs to just be there like an extra set of hands—to clean, to teach English, to play with the kids. We started in New Zealand and Australia, which was really interesting, especially in Australia’s northern territories with the aboriginal communities.

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MLT: How did that impact your work with C2H2?
Just from seeing people hurting and people dying, and children being really sick. With my profession, I always had to experience that, but it wasn’t until I was on that trip that I felt I would dedicate the rest of my life to it.

MLT: What’s something adults may not understand about grieving children?
Adults think they’re protecting their children by not telling them the whole truth, because they think they can’t handle it or they don’t need to know. But what we see a lot is children sometimes overhear conversations with other adults, or they hear something from someone at school, so they’re gaining information from people around them and not from people closest to them. Children experience these things in developmental levels, not black and white. Just because they’re not talking about it doesn’t mean they’re not going through the process, which is why it’s important to provide different opportunities for them to express themselves, not just by talking.

MLT: What services are available?
We offer peer-to-peer groups for kids and teens ages 6-17, split up into smaller age groups. Our hope is that, once we get more kids and more teens involved, we’ll be able to provide even more group sessions. We’ve only been here since last July, but we’ve already got a strong team of group facilitators, child-life specialists and other trained volunteers. 

MLT: What have been some of the positive outcomes from this experience?
Kids are really going through the process instead of ignoring it. Some of the things they say just make you realize they’re so resilient. It’s wonderful to see them walk through the process and be OK.

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To learn more, visit c2h2place.org.

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