New Program Helps Grieving Students

By: Lauren Zakalik
By: Lauren Zakalik

Losing a loved one is difficult for anyone. But for a child, it can be especially devastating. Ele's Place in Lansing helps about 200 children a week cope with those losses.

"We realized that even though 200 kids a week is a lot, we would never reach all the grieving kids. So we needed to go to them," says Laurie Baumer, executive director of Ele's Place.

So Ele's Place partnered with Lansing schools to create Ele's Group, a school-based voluntary bereavement group for students. The pilot program was unveiled Monday morning at Otto Middle School. It comes after surprising results of a recent survey.

"Of 200-some kids that were surveyed in the 8th grad alone, 171 said, 'I am grieving,'" Baumer says.

Administrators say it can be hard to tell if students are dealing with a loss at home. But if the grief isn't dealt with, it can lead to problems in the future.

"Because of grief, we see disruptions in academic behavior," says Otto Middle School acting principal Marc Weinberg.

Baumer expands, "Bereaved children will often turn to drugs and alcohol, they experience academic failure where once they were doing quite well, and often times they turn to criminal behavior."

The sessions will be lead by social workers once a week for eight weeks at Otto Middle School. They'll involve activities like poetry writing, singing and making memory boxes. Administration expects students to react well to the program.

"I have great hopes for this program, that it will expand not only in this school, but to other schools in the district, and eventually to other districts in the area," Baumer says.

And with any hope, losses will become a little less daunting for our little ones.


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