By Lane Pease, Program Director
The theme of February at Kate’s Club is “How do I talk about it?” We do activities with our members about how we talk about our grief with family members and others. However, Kate’s Club’ vision is “A World in Which it is Okay to Grieve” and it leads to the question “How do we talk about grief in general?”
For the past 5 years, I have had the pleasure of facilitating trainings on grief in children to child serving professionals, graduate students, and the community at large. The topics range from an overview of grief in child to very specific topics such as how to support children bereaved by suicide. I have been all over the metro area and other areas of Georgia.
Grief is not always an easy subject to talk about, but I have realized that people welcome the opportunity to “talk about it.” Many adults feel very uncomfortable talking about death and loss. They tend to fill the conversations with platitudes or in some cases say nothing at all. In addition, they do not recognize that children and teens are having grief reactions until they make the connections during the trainings. Time after time, participants come to me to tell me about their “light bulb” moments during the training.
Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to work with The Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) by becoming a National Training Associate to train club staff on how to support grieving youth. Kate’s Club had been doing work in local Boys and Girls Club with staff trainings, support groups, “and grief education for youth. Doing local support was a part of our outreach program “Kate’s Club Connects, but “taking it on the road” was a new idea. We after all we are a “local non-profit.” After comparing our mission and vision with that of the BGCA, it seemed like a natural fit. The BGCA’s mission is to “To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.” Grief and loss impacts children and teens immensely and unless adults are given tools to help them young people may not reach their full potential.
I have traveled as far away as Durango, Colorado and as close as an Atlanta club, to help club staff learn how to support grieving youth. In urban and rural clubs, the issues of loss are similar. Those children that need the Boys and Girls Club most are many times the ones that experience the most loss. We know that one in twenty children will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18. There are countless others experiencing grief through the loss of other family members and friends many times through death and through divorce, incarceration, foster care, deployment, and deportation. As we did the trainings, club staff asked that the training cover these other experiences of grief. Young people need supportive adults who can and will talk about grief, normalize, and teach healthy coping skills.
For my next BGCA training, I am off to Buffalo, NY and I will continue to help answer the question “How do we talk about it?”