Over the years, especially since Ian has passed away, Becca has been asking to met others like her...other siblings who are going through what she has, having a sibling who has a disease like Ian's. Well given how rare his disease is, we could not find anything like that...after he passed away she expressed the desire to meet other kids who had lost a sibling, again not an easy task. I put many feelers out while looking high and low on the internet. I came across a group called Compassionate Friends, a support group for those who have lost a child or a sibling. I thought great a place for all of us to go. After speaking with the facilitator of the local chapter, we determine that Becca was too young to go to one of the meetings. I then came across Me Too & Just Teens through Stella Maris. A retreat for kids 5-17 who have experiences a loss. According to their website, Me Too & Just Teens is a one-day retreat designed to help grieving children and teens learn ways to explore their grief through innovative techniques in a safe, therapeutic environment. I was hooked....signed her up and waited the 2 months for February 4th to arrive.
Brian and I dropped her off unsure if there would be anyone else who lost a sibling, we told Becca before that the loss could be a parent, grandparent, sibling, or anyone the child or teen lost. There was a brief introductory for kids and parents together, we found out then there were a few who had lost parents, grandparents and sibling (she was the only one). The hope was that it did not matter who lost who, just that she knew she was not alone in her grief, other teens had experienced a lost and they could relate to each other. After the introduction, the kids were separated into kids and teen groups, the parents and caregivers were pulled aside so one of the counselors could go over the day with us. We were also given a handout on grief in children. The counselor informed us there are 7 steps to remember in a child's grieving process:
(1) children need to be informed to make sense of the reality of the loss; (2) children need to experience and feel the pain of the loss; (3) children need time and space to express their sorrow through tears, talking, art and play; (4) children need to identify and express their range of feelings; (5) children need to know why others are sad and why they themselves are feeling sad; truth and understanding bring clarity; (6) children need to remember, revisit, review and relinquish their loss at each developmental stage of life, to the extent that their current understanding of loss allows; (7) children need to participate in rituals of remembering as a healing tool. Communication, information and a safe, supportive environment provide children the time to absorb the loss and reconstruct their new world. Grief is unique to each child, and the time for integration of loss is theirs alone.
At pick up, the kids and parents were back together where we got a feel for how the day went...most of the kids had smiles on their faces and were happy to be there. The counselor stated the retreat is done 4 times a year as well as there is an overnight camp at the end of April. Becca is excited to go to the overnight camp as well as another retreat. After the 5 hour retreat was over, we talked about the day...of course only what she would share. As she said they were only allowed to share what they talked about not what other teens talked about. Becca told us the morning started off with a icebreaker. Then it moved on to one of the hard parts, each child got to share their story...she said that was the hardest part of her and when she cried the most. By the time everyone was done sharing their story, lunch was had. After lunch, the counselors had them go through a meditation and explained meditation can be helpful with anxiety, grief, sadness, etc. She said the breathing helps to calm those feelings. In addition, they did some playing in sand (I'm unsure why as Becca didn't go into those details and we weren't going to force her). And then a coloring/drawling project. Becca showed us hers and what stood out to me was the slogan she put on it..."I love you to the moon and back". She told us that the day was hard but knowing there were other teens who had lost like her was good.
There are no words...knowing we were able to find comfort for her while she is grieving is a relief.