Grief is a healthy and natural response to loss. It is with this understanding of grief that Donna Smith, a mental health professional and grief counselor, walked Little Lights staff through a training on grief and loss.

Through an interactive virtual discussion Donna guided staff in identifying periods where they have experienced grief in their own lives and provided examples for how staff can help children or the families connected to Little Lights navigate grief or loss.

Here are 6 takeaways from Little Lights staff on what they recognize and understand about grief after the discussion:

1. The pandemic has created many losses for us all- a loss of routine, a loss of small and large gatherings, a loss of normalcy- and your feelings about it are valid.

“It was really helpful to think of something like the current pandemic as a time of loss and grief – helped me to realize and make sense of, have more patience for, some of the emotions I am currently going through.” – Katie Larkins, Office Manager

2. Grief is normal, and it is a non-linear process.

“Grief is a tumultuous journey, not a linear process where we finally reach some point of arrival.

It’s a spiral and filled with triggers of pain but also joy as we reminisce about things or people or dreams we’ve lost. It was also good to explore how my own grief experiences still impact me today – and how I really need God to revive those emotionally broken areas in my life. (Psalm 23:3)” – Ashley Hill, Development & Grants Coordinator

3. Grief for children is typically different from adults.

“Children who experience grief when they are young need to continually re-process their grief as they mature and their mental capacity develops. This means that a child’s process of grieving does not begin and end quickly, but may come up in waves throughout their childhood, possibly for many years or decades. – Teddi Beschel, Volunteer Coordinator

4. While usually linked to death, grief is not exclusive to death. Grief can also be felt in the common losses you experience throughout life.

“Donna helped me expand my concept of grief to include many types of losses, even those that might have been present in our families before our birth — from loss of normalcy to cut-off relationships and rifts in our communities.” – Amy Leonard, Development & Communications Director

5. The way we experience grief is very individual.

“During our discussion Donna shared a quote: “Although we may be in the same storm, we are not in the same boats.” It reminded me that the way people experience and process grief is so different.” – Linda An, Program Coordinator

6. Make a plan in advance to help you in times of grief.

“When people are in the midst of deep grief, it’s hard to craft a plan of self care, so having something that is already established is very helpful. An emotional first aid kit is tailor made for each person and could contain things like names and phone numbers of good friends, a journal, art supplies for processing through art, photos of loved ones, music, a book about emotional health.” – Kristy Wallace, Family Center Program Coordinator