NIANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — “We lost our son Brian in 2011 to suicide,” says Ann Dagle, whose son was just 19-years-old when he died. “Loved his classes, loved school but he struggled with anxiety and depression.”
A photograph of Brian, with his two dogs, inspired a memorial statue at McCook Park in Niantic which, in turn, helped shape the logo of Brian’s Healing Hearts Center for Hope & Healing.
“It all kind of came together,” says Dagle who opened the center to fill a void in the area. “Creating a space. People need a space to feel safe and grieve….we offer all kinds of support groups for all kinds of losses.”
A memory table shows lost loved ones. A serene garden provides peaceful reflection. The center also offers one-on-one therapy to those hurting….all for free.
“They shouldn’t have to worry about it during their grief, they shouldn’t have to worry about finances,” says Dagle, noting that’s why support is so important.
The Jingle Bell 5K is the organization’s biggest fundraiser. The annual event is still happening this December with a rolling start and a virtual component in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a really fun, uplifting event where the community comes out and supports us,” says Dagle.
After a pause, in-person grief groups are starting-up again with safety protocols in place. “The human connection is a powerful thing, it’s a beautiful thing, especially during grief,” says Dagle, certified in grief work.
She aims to break the stigma and believes progress has been made in the last decade: “It’s OK not to be OK and it’s OK to ask for help.”
But, she says, more must be done. So, she’ll continue her work with Brian in her heart.
“That’s why I do this,” she says. “I do it for him and it helps me.”
The Niantic Jingle Bell 5K takes place Saturday, Dec. 12. Click here for information.