For almost 30 years, Ele’s Place has been supporting Michigan families through some of the most difficult and emotionally fragile moments of their lives. The nonprofit, community-based organization is dedicated to creating awareness of and support for grieving children and their families.
Ele’s Place provides peer-to-peer support groups for grieving children and teens, both on-site and in schools working in collaboration with school counselors. The on-site groups can range from 60 to 80 people; however, the in-person sessions were suspended with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we first closed in March, the bereavement coordinators would reach out to each family weekly and send directions for a family project,” explained Kristine Kuhnert, director of the Lansing-based Ele’s Place-Capital Region. “As time went on, we realized that our doors would not be opening as soon as we would like, and we needed to resume our peer-to-peer support groups. Our kids needed the support of their peers. At the start of the summer, our peer-to-peer groups resumed using Zoom.”
While it is not that same as being face to face with their peers, it is a good alternative to help guide children dealing with the complex emotions that come from the death of a family member.
According to research conducted by the JAG Institute, 1 in 13 children in Michigan will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of 18. That statistic does not include other people in a child’s life who may pass on, such as grandparents, teachers or friends. COVID-19 has made it more difficult than ever to traverse the grieving process with the people closest to us.
“With the coronavirus pandemic, there are new and additional layers to the grief families are experiencing, as many do not have the opportunity to start to the grieving process with a funeral or other healthy ways of saying goodbye,” Kuhnert said.
For more information, visit elesplace.org.