What LoKate Means to Me: My Journey with the Kate’s Club Young Adult Grief Program

by Kacie Chasteen, Program Coordinator

My journey with Kate’s Club started in fall 2019. I had just graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Oglethorpe University and was struggling to find a job. I decided to go to Oglethorpe’s bi-annual career fair and had the pleasure of meeting Debra Brook, Kate’s Club Director of Clubhouse and Volunteer Services, for the first time.

I unfortunately did not fit Kate’s Club’s hiring needs at the time, but Debra told me about the opportunity to become a Buddy volunteer. I have always had a passion for working with children, so I knew this was a perfect volunteer match. After training in October 2019, I started volunteering consistently.

Then, as the world stopped for the pandemic, my life stopped too.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in the Fall 2016 and responded well to treatments for the next four years. However, in March 2020, her cancer had spread terminally, and it was time for her to enter home hospice. I quickly moved from Brookhaven back to Athens to be with her. She passed a month later on April 24, 2020.

For the next few months, I took care of my grief by taking time to myself and beginning grief therapy. I also took some time off from Kate’s Club, knowing our mission was a little too close to home for me to effectively volunteer as a Buddy.

Although I wasn’t as active with Kate’s Club, I still wanted to work towards my goal of helping children, so I started graduate school at UGA in August 2020 to obtain my Master’s in Social Work (MSW). The pandemic gave me a nice cushion, and I was able to care for my grief while attending classes from the comfort of my own home.

As I tended my grief, I began feeling ready to be active with Kate’s Club again. In November 2020, I volunteered at a pop-up event and had the idea to do my MSW program’s internship at Kate’s Club. I started my MSW internship in January 2021 and stayed for the next three semesters.

Through my internship, I grew my skills as not only a social work professional, but also as a grief professional. One of my greatest accomplishments as an intern was starting our new young adult program, LoKate, alongside Liz Carson and Lane Pease.

Since there are few young adult grief programs, LoKate seemed like the next step for Kate’s Club’s expansion, and as a young adult griever myself I had insight to the young adult griever’s perspective.

Our program is based on months of research and feedback we received from young adults to help create a unique program. Thanks to the passion of all involved, LoKate has grown into an amazing and intentional program that supports a population that may not otherwise have support.

It has been a privilege to help organize and lead this group. This work allows me to honor my mom and the impact she had on me as I help others move through their grief in a healthy way. When I talk about grief, members can know it comes from a place of personal experience and understanding of the grief experience. They know I am walking the grief journey alongside them. I do my best to inspire hope that they too can get to places of comfort in their grief. A place where they can smile when they think about their person before crying. A place where they can know others are feeling the way they do. A place where they have a community of people who just get it.

Grief is hard and challenging, but there is light in the grief. Grief reminds me of the Taoist symbol yin and yang, which describes the balance between opposite forces. In the case of grief, there can be overwhelming darkness at times, but there is still that bit of light reminding you that joy is possible again. But there is also dark in the light reminding you that there will be times of sorrow within that joy as well. Grief ebbs and flows and it’s important to remember your emotions will change throughout your grief experience. Finding programs like LoKate can help support those ever-changing, and sometimes conflicting, emotions.

LoKate is a special and unique program that balances the light and the dark of grief. Oftentimes, adult grief support can feel dry, unhelpful and focused on the harder side of grief. LoKate instead focuses on the peer connection aspects of grief support. In contrast, our programs are member-led, and conversations range from the latest book or show we consumed, to the tougher moments of grief, to the latest Coke flavor!

We find time to be intentional in our conversations, but still have fun. Our quarterly outings help us do just that through activities like kayaking and apple picking. LoKate is a community of people who get grief and help members start finding meaning in their experience.

Death happens. You may not find a reason or purpose for the death, but sometimes finding ways to make meaning from the experience helps people grieve. There is no reason that my mom had to die, but it sent me down a path that led me to Kate’s Club and LoKate, and I am forever changed by that. I have found meaning and purpose in helping others through their grief journey. I am so honored to continue my role with LoKate and Kate’s Club as the LoKate Coordinator. Grief is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone.

LoKate is a Kate’s Club program for young adults (ages 18-30) grieving the death of someone important to them. For more information or to join LoKate, please contact Program Coordinator Kacie at [email protected]