We provide grief support services for children, teens, young adults, and families. We do groups in Goshen. We meet every other Monday. We have — and we do — a lot of different school groups. That’s in Elkhart, St. Joseph, and Kosciusko and counties. We’re about to start a miscarriage and stillbirth group, as well.
Everything we do is at no cost. We don’t charge for our services.
For families, we go right up until the week of Christmas, and the school programs will go right up until school gets out.
We have a particular night in December that is just about the holidays. This year it was December 6th. The kids get to make ornaments or decorations in memory of their loved ones, and they get to talk about how it’s going to be different this year. The adults participate, too.
Some will want to leave an empty seat at the table. Others will light a candle in memory of someone, but we encourage people to recognize their loved ones in a certain way at the holidays and not pretend it didn’t happen.
We’re getting more and more calls from people who’ve had a loved one die from Covid or just during Covid, and that has made it different. Some children will think that the person is gone for a while, that it’s not permanent. So definitely when they don’t get to say goodbye or have that closure, Covid has complicated their grief — both children and adults.
When we were in lockdown, we offered all of our groups virtually. The interesting thing that happened during Covid was that we started getting calls from all over the country — from Florida to California and the Dakotas — to join our virtual groups because there was nothing they could get on in their area.
We still have a virtual group for adults now, but we’re just thrilled that we’re back full-time with the kids. It’s hard for them to talk about their feelings on a screen. It’s so much better for them in person — and for the adults, too
Children’s grief journey in itself is always very different. Adults have the ability to be sad for a very long time, but kids — it’s hard for them to stay sad all the time.
We ask them, ‘What would your loved one want you to know?’ and we have them write letters from their loved one to themselves. And mostly, they come up with things like, ‘My dad doesn’t want me to be sad all the time. He would want me to have happy times, too.’
The greatest gift you can give a grieving person is to be kind to them and give them that time. As a society, we don’t necessarily want people to grieve for long; we want them to get on with it.
— Aileaċ Deegan, director, Ryan’s Place Children’s Grief Support Center
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Written and edited by Wendy Wilson
Original publish date April 2022
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