The Open to Hope Foundation’s Dr. Heidi Horsley talks with Camille Gerace about the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region. This project is just one year old, but Gerace says that already they’ve seen so much growth in their clients. She says that when children are around their peers, they get the sense that they’re not alone. They connect, and when there’s a death your world turns upside down. Just seconds ago, the world was a different place. Being able to connect with someone who knows what they’re going through can give them a feeling of being whole.
This connection is critical for children. The Center is based on a peer support network. Seeing others who have survived and found hope again can help instill that hope in others. Younger children see adults who lost someone as a child, too. Seeing them grow up and be strong is inspiring. Children connect with fellow kids, the staff, volunteers, and faculty. If you love, you can grieve.
A Family Affair
Once a child has had a loss, there’s a group that can help with connectedness. Children can choose a variety of activities to help with healing and bereavement. There are stimulating conversation starters for home, and parents also have a group they can join. It’s an entire family strategy at the Center. Helping one another, at the center and at home, is paramount.
Adults can ask one another what’s worked and what hasn’t. There’s also a strong art focus at the Center. Kids often express themselves through play and art, which is why there’s such a focus on movement. When a new child arrives, as soon as they get close “the other kids suck them in,” says Gerace. This is a place for anyone in the Michigan area who’s experienced a loss.