Cynthia Osterman is selling some of her clothes to help raise funds to start a mindfulness program focused on helping teens learn self-compassion, coping skills and perhaps prevent suicide.
The program is to be named The Benji Project, after her son, Benji Kenworthy, who died May 7, 2015. He was 15.
“It’s very easy for teens to feel that everyone else has it figured out, that everyone else’s life is perfect and I’m the only one who feels this way,” Osterman said. “When they feel safe and accept who they are, it becomes so much easier to talk about what’s on their mind and all that builds resilience.”
Osterman hopes to offer a two-day program bringing nationally known mindfulness teachers to the community and then ultimately offer a teen-specific program called Making Friends with Yourself to the community.
Mindfulness programs focus on helping people with pain and a range of life issues.
“Mindfulness is a proven stress-reduction approach and has been embraced by the health care profession because of its efficacy with everything from depression to high blood pressure,” said Osterman, who has been a meditator in the mindfulness tradition for more than 20 years. She said that grounding helped her deal with Benji’s death and other adversity in her life.
Jefferson Healthcare has offered a program for seniors that focuses on strategies to “recognize and reduce chronic mental and physical stress as well as increase inner calm and overall well-being.”
“I think that one of the things that was so hard after Benji’s death was self-recrimination. I hadn’t seen it coming and in my reflection afterwards, I felt it was because he was like many teens. He had this mask up and wasn’t willing to put the mask down and show his vulnerability,” she said.
In this age of social media, when teens share all kinds of things on Facebook, Osterman hopes that a mindfulness program could help both teens and parents learn coping skills.
As for the clothing she’s selling, Osterman said that after reading a book by Marie Kondo that deals with decluttering one’s life, she realized, “I could create more space and joy in my life by letting go and raising money for something I’m passionate about.
“After my son died, my life changed. I have clothes for a lot of festive, fancy events, and my life went into a different direction,” she said. She also took stock of her wardrobe, realized there were sizes she would never be again and lovely pieces that she had held on to yet would never wear again and were going to waste.
The sale is set for 2-4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17 at Swan School, 2345 Kuhn St., Port Townsend.
More than 1,200 items are for sale with everything from designer and high-end labels to casual work clothes and jeans.
There are many cocktail dresses for holiday parties, as well as coats, jackets, blouses, tops, dozens of jeans, skirts, intimate apparel, swim suits, summer dresses and shorts, and accessories. Sizes range from 6 to 14. There also are dozens of pairs of shoes ranging from size 7.5 to 8, and many are unworn, some still with their tags, that would make “perfect gifts.”
Osterman said Benji had attended Swan School, and that the school staff and parents have been kind and generous to her in the wake of his death.
Osterman is hoping to raise as much as $10,000 to underwrite training costs in creating a mindfulness program.
“It is going to take some commitment, she said.