Initiative Offers Compassion, Tools to Combat Grief
The Boys and Girls Club has been a part of the Oshkosh community since 1970, impacting the lives of thousands of children and their families. Recently, the organization has made efforts to add a new program to improve those lives even more in the form of a grief support network. Program founder, and coordinator of the Children and Teens Grief Support Network, Amy Reed created the initiative after noticing a need for grief support in Oshkosh.
“This program is designed to provide a safe space for children and teens who have lost someone to death,” she said. “They are able to come together and help each other navigate the grief process.”
This network was created in order to fill a void identified in the city of Oshkosh among youth who had lost someone close to them. Many cities around the area already have a similar program, so this encouraged the staff at the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh to mirror the efforts of those in surrounding communities.
“The staff at the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh has worked hard to create space, raise funding, order appropriate supplies, train facilitators, and spread the word that the program exists,” Reed said.
Reed, a special education instructor at Kimberly High School, attended the Summer Institute at the Dougy Center in Portland, Oregon in order to gain the skills needed to start the program in Oshkosh.
“The Dougy Center is the number one Children and Teen Grief Center in the world, and the practices have been research-based and accredited,” she said. “Our program is based on the Dougy Center model.”
Along with Reed, there have been numerous people involved in the process of developing new support network. Staff, interested volunteers, the Boys and Girls Club of Fox Valley Center for Grieving Children, and organizations in Oshkosh such as the Community for Hope have dedicated time to establish the program and ensure it gets the attention needed. This early in the process, the program and its growing network does not have many participating families, but Reed hopes to fill all three age groups (ages 5-8, 9-12, and teen) in the network and expand group meetings to two times a month. The Center Director of the Boys and Girls Club, Lori Fields, also trained as a facilitator, was very pleased when the idea of the network was introduced.
“We have had families use this program but have also found transportation to Appleton, which is sometimes a barrier to access,” she said. “Two years ago Loris Damerow, Director of the Center for Grieving Children, reached out to us about the possibility of starting a program in Oshkosh.”
Damerow’s suggestion spurred the Boys and Girls Club of Oshkosh to survey the community to gauge interest.
“We started doing some research and found that there was a need for a place for children and teens to express grief and provide support for adults as well,” Fields said. “The next steps for us were to seek out funding for such a program and someone to take the lead, and Amy Reed was a great fit to lead the program.”
Fields is hopeful that the program will have a positive impact on the community.
“Anyone in our community can attend. They do not need to be a Boys & Girls Club member. We have already experienced the benefits of children and teens having a place where caring adults are there to support them as they experience a wide range of emotions,” she said.
With the tremendous amount of attention that the program continues to receive, Fields believes the support for the children and teens will grow in the near future.
“There is support knowing there are individuals that are your peers who have experienced a loss,” she said. “We know that this program will continue to grow and give children and teens the support they need to process the loss.”
Sophomore Hannah Birschbach hopes and believes that the network will bring about great changes to the Oshkosh community and possibly to the hallways of West.
“By creating a network like this, the community is focusing on those in need, and taking a positive step,” she said.
Birschbach hopes that the Grief Support Network will encourage students at West to get the help they need and have a shoulder to lean on in times of grief and a resource on how to better process those emotions.
“Not only will the network provide children and teens with a place to turn to, it will help encourage others to get involved and help those in need,” she said. “The Grief Support network will provide people with trained professionals to support and guide them, and I think that this could help children and teens who experience a loss grieve in the right way, and help prevent them from slipping into a depressed state.”