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• TED E. BEAR HOLLOW EVOLVING INTO GRIEF’S JOURNEY

TED E. BEAR HOLLOW NOW grief’s journey Rebecca was introduced to Grief’s Journey (fka Ted E. Bear Hollow) when her husband’s sister died suddenly, leaving two small children and an extended network of family and friends shocked and confused. Rebecca recalls playing with the kids in the weeks following. She felt ill-equipped to handle their questions – in part, because no one really knew what had happened to cause her sister-in-law’s death, but also because she was afraid of saying something that would upset the kids, and, by extension, the adults in her family. Cathy sought out Grief’s Journey when her parents called her – panicked – from another state. Her teenage sister was withdrawing from them, and she wasn’t eating following her best friend’s death in a tragic airplane accident. Her parents were hoping their social worker daughter would have the solution. Surely, they thought, she’d know how to help her sister feel better. Karen first experienced Grief’s Journey with her grandchildren. Their dad, Karen’s thoughtful, witty, son, had recently lost his battle with cancer. Karen thought she was there for the kids, yet she discovered a refuge for herself and a meaningful avenue for her continued healing. By sharing her story with the new families who joined her as program participants, hope grew. These three women aren’t program participants. They’re a few of the professional staff who lead approximately 350 volunteers, annually, to conduct the agency’s work.

Grief’s Journey now serves people of all ages. Seven of their eight core programs are for youth ages 3-18 and their adult caregivers. Their eighth program is a support group for adults who don’t have children enrolled in their family programs. These adult participants may have attended their programs as youth or as adults whose children were formerly enrolled, or they may be new program participants altogether. Perhaps Grief’s Journey’s most significant additions over the years have been their highly regarded training and education programs. In fact, their impact on our area’s ability to provide competent grief support has been profound. In just the past year, they’ve conducted over 100 educational presentations, trained 43 new grief support group facilitators and offered 5 continuing education workshops. Their Grief Awareness Conference, now in its fourth year, has grown annually, providing professional development for approximately 400 area teachers, counselors, mental health practitioners, healthcare workers and HR professionals. Keynotes have addressed: Grief and Social Media, Grief in the Workplace and Supporting Grieving Children and Teens Following a Suicide Loss. While attending a professional conference recently one of the organization’s staff happened to be seated between two individuals who had lost parents in the past year. Initially, it can be difficult to know how to respond when hearing someone share that they have recently lost one or both parents. It’s challenging to know how to avoid saying the wrong thing, but that Grief’s Journey staff member understood an important principle in attempting to support those dealing with loss.

Founded in 2001 as Ted E. Bear Hollow, Grief’s Journey was an organization “We can get hung up on saying the right thing, or we can remember all we really need dedicated solely to assisting young children who were grieving the death of a loved one. to do is listen.” She was grateful that she could also say, “Have you heard about the These kids brought their adult caregivers with them to something called KidsKamps, great programs at Grief’sJourney?” Saturdays filled with arts and crafts and play activities designed to help them express their emotions, remember the individuals in their lives who had died and develop new Free grief support programs offered in 2017 and healthy methods of coping. Monthly Support Groups: These open or “drop-in” groups are for families to attend at any time, so they are a great way to get a “taste” of the programs without making a big Today, the agency is providing free grief support, outreach and services in six counties commitment. During the group sessions, youth and adults work with trained facilitators surrounding the Omaha/Council Bluffs metro area. They are serving about 800 in separate age/developmental groups. Adults meet in a group of their own, concurrent individuals annually at their main facility and are working with more than 10 school with the children’s groups. A light breakfast is provided. (Meet monthly, year round.) districts, 12 youth-serving agencies and 24 public libraries to make sure their free grief support services are accessible to those who need them. 8-Session Support Groups: In this core program at Grief’s Journey, the same families attend for all eight sessions as they progress through a series of grief-related topics. The philosophy of its founders and a great number of the activities are the same today Having the same people in the group provides comfort and security and promotes as in 2001. But Grief’s Journey has been on its own journey – an evolution mapped better outcomes. Following a potluck meal, youth and adults work with trained out in response to requests from its program participants, referral sources and the facilitators in separate age/developmental groups. Series begin throughout the year schools and social service agencies trying to positively impact the myriad causes of and are held once each week. (Meet at regular intervals year round.) grief in our region. Through this evolution, the agency has developed new programs. In addition to its core bereavement support, Grief’s Journey now offers support groups for families who are grieving a life-changing illness or injury. Through their work alongside schools and other social service agencies, they help develop programs that address grief due to immigration, incarceration and other types of separation. With this evolution, they have significantly increased their work with kids and families coping with terminal diagnoses, serious illness, gang violence and military injury. Their commitment is continued evolution in response to the community’s most critical grief support needs. 32

Day Camps: Held in the spring and summer months, these themed afternoons are filled with crafts and activities to honor and remember special people who have died. Families work together with volunteers in a fun, light-hearted atmosphere. (Held six times annually.) Tinsel & Tears (Holiday Camps): These afternoon camps help grieving families as they prepare for and navigate the winter holidays. Families work together with volunteers to make special holiday memories and crafts to honor the lives of those who have died. (Held eight times annually.) mQUARTERLY • FEB/MAR/APR 2017

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