A counselor at the Tamarack Grief Resource Center, Dr. Tina Barrett attended the 2015TANA Association of Death Education and Counseling conference where she spoke with the Executive Director of Open to Hope, Dr. Heidi Horsley. Barret’s goal is to “stabilize kids, adults and communities following loss” in the Missoula, Montana area. Offering both support programs and education programs, these programs are earmarked for kids and teens as well as schools that may need help handling grieving students after a loss. “We specialize in grief camps and retreats,” she shares, but even the non-camp groups and programs try to get attendees outside as much as possible.
“What partly sets us apart is the outdoor-based grief support.” Dr. Barrett says that although kids and teens make up a generous amount of their participants, they also work with people of all ages as well as professionals. Montana is geographically a very large state, and of course not everyone lives in the Missoula area. “We’re trying to strengthen communities to be more comfortable dealing with grief,” she says, because it’s a subject that can be uncomfortable and overwhelming.
Grief can lead to feelings of isolation, and that can get exacerbated for those who live in more rural areas without in-person support, like the one serviced by the Tamarack Grief Resource Center. Another issue is learning how to support people not just immediately in the aftermath of loss, but often for the rest of their lives. Grief isn’t something you “get over,” but for many who have lost a loved one they report feeling encouraged to get back to normal after a year or two.
There’s no way to “fix” grief, but there are ways of coming together in the process. The goal is to help people continue to honor their own losses while supporting those around them. As a strong, independent state, Montanans can sometimes shy away from grief counseling, but Dr. Barrett is committed to making resources as readily available as possible.