Darcey Fairchild: Nature-Based Grief Programs for Teens

At the conference for the National Alliance for Grieving Children, Dr. Heidi Horsley talked with Darcey Fairchild who works with TAPS, an organization which serves military families. She began her work just over two years ago in Montana. It was a means of incorporating her love for nature-based programming and her background in social work. Nature based programming can be very helpful for children in grief. As a native Montanan, Fairchild found peace in the natural world and uses it as a way to regulate her emotions. There’s something incredible about spending the day in front of a mountain or lake in Montana.

Children experience many things at bereavement camps, but the biggest is connecting with other kids who have gone through similar situations. She also knows that a big help is having fun, laughing, and having a safe space to do some honoring and remembering. However, connection is key. The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) has been key in helping military families heal and address their grief for several years.

Healing from Nature

Fairchild also works at the Tamarack Grief Support Center, where she manages camps and groups for the bereaved. Her specialty is working with kids and their families. Oftentimes, adults don’t know how to work with grieving children. There’s a disparity that can occur since adults think kids should grieve in a certain way (often like adult women). However, children heal in spurts and through play.

For Fairchild, using nature and especially Montana’s great beauty has played a critical role in healing. She’s found that it helps to put kids in a nurturing and beautiful environment. Here, play and grief go hand in hand. Nobody has to talk if they don’t want to, and children identify their own best healing methods.


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