We love listening to NPR’s This American Life each week, and we were particularly struck by an episode that we heard last month. The piece, which originally aired in May of 2015, highlighted various areas of life that are difficult to discuss with children. An entire section was devoted to talking to children about death and grief, and we were fascinated by the information we learned about a grief-counseling center called The Sharing Place.
Based in Salt Lake City, UT, this non-profit organization “provides a safe and caring environment for grieving children, teens, and their families to share their feelings while healing themselves.” We were intrigued as we learned more about The Sharing Place and the innovative tactics and techniques they employ to empower children to cope with their grief. One specific way they do this is by helping children identify and share the way their love one died, developing sensitive but frank ways of encouraging children to articulate their losses directly and profoundly.
“Kids sit in support groups led by grown-ups, but the point is to allow children to talk to other children about their grief. They’re encouraged to speak in concrete language about death because, the thinking goes, that’s how to process death’s finality. So people don’t pass away, you don’t lose them—they die. We invest so much effort trying to shield kids from the scary things in life. We place advisories before TV shows that warn against inappropriate language and subject matter, and what could be less appropriate than death? So for all we let on, bunnies lay eggs, your mother means well, and life pretty much goes on forever. To do otherwise feels like you’re breaking a basic pact that grown-ups have with one another.”
There were so many additional insights in the podcast, so we’d love to hear from you if you choose to listen to it. What do you think of The Sharing Place’s ideas and practices?