Deerfield resident turns personal loss into strength for others
Volunteer Liz Nardini of Deerfield works with children's support groups for Willow House in Riverwoods. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
NAME: Liz Nardini
HOMETOWN: Deerfield, formerly of Highland Park
ALSO KNOWN AS: Volunteer with children’s groups at Willow House, a grief support center in Riverwoods
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:13AM
DEERFIELD — After Deerfield resident Liz Nardini suffered the loss of her husband, she found a strength she wanted to share with others.
Nardini, a mother of three, began volunteering with children’s groups at Willow House, a grief support center in Riverwoods, last September.
“I love working with children,” she said. “I like giving them the opportunity to express memories.”
Nardini helps with support groups for children ages 3 to early teens who have suffered the loss of a parent, sibling or other loved one.
The groups, led by two or three volunteers, meet monthly.
“Our goal is to have them leave feeling better,” Nardini said.
Willow House is run by a small group of staff members and more than 90 volunteers. Nardini believes she was well-prepared for her work following 20 hours of required volunteer training.
“The training was thorough and it really provided a great education for various types of losses,” she said.
Nardini said she also believed herself deeply prepared for her role at Willow House because she had suffered a personal loss and was familiar with the grieving process.
“It gave me confidence,” she said.
Willow House Program Coordinator Ruth Ann Johnson said the organization has been in Riverwoods since 1998. Willow House also holds support groups for grieving parents and children in neighboring suburbs.
“We try to be out in the community so people don’t have to drive far,” Johnson said.
For kids groups, Johnson said she works with other staff to develop themes and artistic exercises for the group.
“She’s wonderful with the kids,” Johnson said of Nardini. “She’s very adept at creating an environment where kids can share their feelings. She’s very accessible.”
Nardini said there are several children’s groups broken up by age group. She believes children are there because they want to be there. Parents of grieving children meet separately in adjacent rooms.
“It gives the adults a chance to share what’s going on at home,” Nardini said.
Willow House’s family support groups are open-ended, so grieving families can participate for as long as they need to, Johnson said. Willow House also does outreach at area schools and churches. Its fundraiser, “Walk to Remember, Run for Hope,” takes place in Libertyville on Aug. 26.
“It’s a really special event,” Johnson said.
Nardini was born in Highland Park and has a master’s degree in education. She has lived in Deerfield for 28 years. She most enjoys volunteering with Willow House because she believes she is helping others in the same way others helped her during her loss.
“I think it’s just being able to give back,” she said. “Now I can be in the role of providing support.”