Dr. Heidi Horsley talks with Kaela Vance at the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference. Vance is getting ready to work with an organization, as well as build her own organization, in Columbus, Ohio that help kids cope with loss. When she was seven years old, her mom died of ovarian cancer. As the eldest of three siblings, that loss inspired her to do this work. Dr. Horsley relates, having been inspired by her brother’s death. As a grieving child, Vance recommends that parents look for a program to help children heal.
Vance joined Stepping Stones, which offered day camps and ongoing support. She still has some of the art pieces she completed there. Also, she had a supportive family. Expressing herself through art was critical for her, and it is for many children who might not have the speech or communication capability to grieve in more traditional ways. A life of service is what many bereaved seek out as adults, and it can be a lifelong tool for healing while also doing good for others.
Children can especially benefit from peer support programs like Stepping Stones. There are many more programs today than when Vance was a child, but there’s still a strong need—especially in rural or underserved communities. That’s why she’s committed to creating her own non-profit organization and hopes to give back. Giving others a gift she feels so thankful to have helps her grief to come full circle and honor her mother.
There are many bereaved children who turn into adults, like Vance, with a passion for helping others. Keep an eye out for Vance’s next moves, and expect more support in Columbus as she finds her place within the bereaved support community.