by Monica Brancheau – Director of Ele’s Place Ann Arbor
One in twelve. One in twelve Michigan children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of eighteen.1
Many of these grieving children feel alone and keep their feelings inside, not wanting to burden their parents or other family members. Often, friends don’t understand if they haven’t had a similar experience. Unresolved grief negatively affects our children and teens, and contributes to alarming rates of depression, addiction, and violence.
Ele’s Place is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to creating awareness of and support for grieving children, teens, and their families. Each week, peer support group programs help hundreds of children and teens learn how to cope and begin to heal after the death of a parent, sibling, or other significant person. These children and teens can meet new friends who really understand how they feel.
The Reality of Childhood Grief
People are often surprised to learn that families who come to Ele’s Place have been affected by many types of deaths, including traumatic or stigmatized deaths. We recently reviewed our family enrollment data and found statistics that were surprising even to us:
- 23% of our current families have been affected by a suicide loss
- We have the same number of families who have experienced a loss from suicide as from cancer
- 12.5% have experienced a death from a drug overdose
- 4% are grieving a homicide
This adds up to nearly 40% of our families who have experienced a traumatic/stigmatized loss that many people in the community may not feel comfortable discussing. All deaths are devastating to families; however, these types of loss bring added challenges. Our families share that they experience blame or shame around the way their person died, and say they appreciate having a place to talk about these issues with others who truly “get it.”
We are saddened when families face the life-altering experience of having someone die, and are grateful for the opportunity to be here for all families in their time of need.
Services Ele’s Place provides:
- Bereavement and grief support for children, teens, and their families
- On-site peer support groups for children ages 3-18 and their parent or caregiver
- Ele’s Group: 8-week, curriculum-based grief groups in local schools, partnered with the school mental health professionals
- Clinical consultation for families, professionals, community members, agencies, etc.
- Presentations and grief education for professionals, schools, and the community
- Support for schools in crisis following the death of a student, teacher, or administrator, or in response to a highly publicized tragedy in the community or elsewhere
- Resources and referrals for professional services
- Guidance, support, and written materials for parents, teachers, or others working with a grieving child
“The loss of a parent, sibling, or loved one is devastating to children, and they need to be surrounded by compassionate support programs. In our new home, children and teens will find encouragement and support in an environment where they can truly express themselves.” — Sue Snyder, Michigan’s First Lady and Campaign Co-Chair
“In Washtenaw County alone, 4,500 children could potentially benefit from the services of Ele’s Place Ann Arbor. However, due to the current space limitations and availability at our rented facility, we have stopped promoting our critical programs as we simply cannot accommodate all the families who need our services. The new building will allow us to better serve the community’s needs and continue to grow.” — Howdy Holmes, CEO of Jiffy Mixes and Campaign Co-Chair
A Home for Healing Hearts
In any given week, Ele’s Place Ann Arbor may have 30 children on its waiting list to begin the grief support programs. Currently, families attend the programs in a rented church facility in Ann Arbor. However, this past June, Ele’s Place broke ground on a new home in Ann Arbor. The new children’s grieving center will serve thousands of grieving children and their families in eight southeast Michigan counties including Ingham, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne, as well as 31 surrounding cities. Some families will drive over an hour to receive this unique support. With the new facility, programming will expand from three to four nights immediately in hopes of reducing the number of children waiting to attend.
To build the facility, Ele’s Place formed a capital campaign cabinet and launched “A Home for Healing Hearts” Campaign to raise $7.9 million and currently have raised over 80% of the goal. The new 15,000 square-foot facility will offer a space uniquely designed to meet the specific needs of grieving children and families and allow for future growth.
The new facility, which will be located at 5665 Hines Drive in Ann Arbor, will include a spacious “potluck room” overlooking the acres of woods the property sits on. Sometimes when we are grieving, dinner around the table at home might be difficult with an empty chair; dinner in the potluck room is a way for families to spend quality time together while meeting other families in similar situations. The new home will have ten group rooms, three activity rooms, and a beautiful library offering a quiet, private space where children can sit with a loved one reading books about grief, feelings, and healing.
Ele’s Place – A Home for Healing Hearts is the community’s investment in a beautiful, adaptable facility. The permanence, freedom, and flexibility of our new home will be an insurance policy for our community today and for years to come.
Ele’s Place Ann Arbor expects to open the new facility by the Summer of 2019. A growth rate of 25% is expected within the first few years of opening the new facility. Ele’s Place programs are free to all families and individuals. If you would like to help fund the campaign for the new building or learn more, visit www.elesplaceannarbor.org or call 734-929-6640.
November is National Grief Awareness Month and November 15th is Childhood Grief Awareness Day.
1 Judi’s House/JAG Institute Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model 2018
Monica’s headshot photog: Lindsay Wilkinson