Introduction to the Community Bereavement Model for Healing

Many of our communities are experiencing violent attacks on the innocent. You’ve heard of them. They happen at malls, movie theaters and even schools. The wicked cause terrible injuries and shoot people in cold blood. The horror of mass violence rips through our bodies and lives. How can the people in our community’s help each other cope with this insanity?

Since grieving is seldom a part of our education, most people don’t know what to do or where to go. Some use drugs or alcohol. Some withdraw and sink into depression; others find some relief through friends. Still others’ find support groups in churches or community organizations. Much of this help supports adults. But where do the children find support?

Adults are often at a loss when it comes to explaining death to children. The younger the child, the less help is given. There are many who believe the little ones don’t know what’s going on. Oh, they may not understand the situation but they feel the feelings when they see the troubled faces. They hear the crying and the whispering when they are sent off to play and because no one talks to them, they believe that they must have done something wrong.

Sometimes, parents take their children to see counselors or psychologists. But if the counselor has not been trained in grief-work, which many are not, they don’t know how to help. The kids’ parents do their best, but what they really want is for their kids to “get over it” quickly and move on.

I have some ideas that can help you to grieve and then help others in such a way they become stronger and more enlightened.

In the funeral home where I worked, we put together a program for grieving kids with results that exceeded our expectations. Three times a year, we invited two to eleven year olds to join with us for a five-hour event. The event included grief work that was designed to be fun, instructive and healing. We would reach teens too, by training them to work with the younger children. With an adult supervisor, the kids would have a chance to work out their grief through play, music and talking about their unique hurt with others who would become their friends.

Our model begins with compassion and a listening heart. All volunteers, including those not directly involved with the kids, are trained to listen and validate feelings. It is very important to establish an environment of trust and safety. This program model has proven to foster healthy community relationships for helping one another through deep grief.