Over the past few months, Friends of Aine has gained valuable insight from grieving children and teens visiting our Center.
Among many projects and initiatives, our grief education remains a vital piece of our mission and SEA of Hope framework.
Organized by Special Projects and Education Coordinator, Linda Dinndorf, with support from Program Coordinator, Mandi Sutton, Friends of Aine hosted its very first field trip. Nine middle school students and a handful of school faculty from the Nashua school district participated in our HUG (Help Us Grieve) workshop. Through a series of icebreakers and activities, these children felt the comfort and confidence to share their own feelings and experiences, some of which are rooted in their grief.
One such activity, as shown, is a commonality trust icebreaker in which students were asked who likes a particular food, activity, or if they have ever felt a particular emotion in their grief. One by one as they agreed with the statement, they found commonalities with each other. When one student identified with another, they tossed a string of yarn to that other individual. In repeating this process, the group created a strong web of connection, enough to balance a ball.
The exercise helped them see they were not alone, and together, they have a community of support. Linda shared that she was impressed with the students’ willingness and courage to share their stories and support one another.
Additionally, Friends of Aine welcomed a visit from 12 high school students and their advisors from a school in Manchester. While they were here, Linda organized a series of questions and activities to learn grief from a teens’ perspective. Every age group copes with their grief in a different way, based on their developmental stage. Teens especially process their emotions differently than younger children, as we see in our peer-to-peer groups. Part of our goal at the Center is to expand the accessibility of grief support services to the teen demographic, meeting them where they are.
Among the feedback, teens said they enjoyed the safe creative space that is the Center, as it was comfy and did not feel clinical, like a doctor’s office. Beyond the aesthetics of the Center, students offered their insight as to how we can appeal to more teens. Of course, the virtual group option allows for those who don’t have transportation; however, some say the lack of privacy in their own home would pose a challenge to this platform. More so, in person groups keep teens accountable to attend. They appreciate that Friends of Aine is not clinical, and services remain free of charge. They exchanged further conversation around the concept of additional resources and group models and offered several ideas on how to promote grief support services.
As an organization, we are grateful to receive this time with groups of grieving students, so we can understand how to support them throughout their grief journey. The feedback and unique perspectives presented to us through these meetings provide our staff with a better understanding of the services we offer and their effectiveness to children and teens in our communities.