Child drawing a heart
January 16, 2024

What if we understood how to handle grief?

By Amanda Constable

It was the night of our Children’s Program, and I was facilitating the group of adults who were seeking support for raising grieving children. Nine of the group members had been meeting for several weeks and were a very close and supportive group. The 10th group member, Lottie, was starting the group that night. I asked her to introduce herself and talk about why she came.

“I’m Lottie. I brought Trey. He’s only 10 and we lost his dad a few weeks ago to cancer. We are here because Trey told me last week that he doesn’t want to go to recess anymore because…” Lottie’s shaky voice broke, and she had to fight to get the words out.

Lottie looked up and said “You just won’t believe it. The kids on the playground told my little boy that his dad had to die to get away from him.”

The group members were not surprised, and they did believe her. Most of them had similar stories. The rest of our group time that evening was spent strategizing about how to support these children in unsupportive and bullying environments.

Grieving children deserve to live in a grief-informed environment. Their peers deserve to know what to do in the face of grief and loss. No one who loves will escape losing someone in their lifetime. We force silence on the words and expressions that turn grief into mourning. Mourning is grief’s necessary and much more public accomplice on each healing journey. We remain ignorant in our awareness of the needs and processes of a grieving child’s developing brain. We are afraid to talk to our children about how to be a good friend to a grieving child because we fear the words used to describe the fact that a death has occurred. We leave our children completely unaware of how to support each other in the face of one of the biggest fears a child can have.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Leaders at The Dougy Center: The National Grief Center for Children and Families in Portland have created a call to action for building grief-informed environments for children and families and a guide on how to become grief informed. These two important resources give readers the opportunity to learn and do more in creating the grief-informed environment that our community needs and deserves.

WinterSpring is answering this call to action with increased education offered to the community in a series of training starting in February called Creating a Grief-Informed Community. Each training will focus on specific areas in our community and how to address the critical need for grief education.

To find out more about these and other trainings, or to ask for a training for your school or work environment, call WinterSpring at 541-552-0620.

The Dougy Center’s resources on becoming grief-informed:

Becoming-Grief-Informed_A-Call-to-Action.pdf (Donna Schuurman and Monique Mitchell)

Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families | Portland, OR

Amanda Constable is manager of WinterSpring, The Learning Well’s grief support and education program.

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  1. Beautifully written, Amanda! I’m so happy you are still doing grief work for WinterSpring. You have a gift…