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The importance of saying goodbye

The end of the school year is traditionally a time when many participants in our program close from their groups. At The Dougy Center, children and teens get to decide when they are ready to stop attending, a choice that provides them with a sense of power and control in their lives. When a participant closes, we do a special rock ceremony that enables group members to say goodbye and appreciate the child, teen, or adult for what they contributed during their time at The Dougy Center. The participant who is closing picks four rocks: three that are smooth and one that is rough. These rocks are a metaphor for process of grief - when rough rocks toss together in a tumbler, they come out smooth. Similarly, when grieving families gather in group to talk, laugh, cry, and play, their grief stories come together, smoothing out some of the rough edges. In the closing ceremony, the three smooth rocks represent the parts of grief that have grown easier while the rough one is a reminder that no matter how much time passes, there can still be moments when our hearts hurt for the person who died.

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The Dougy Center, Host of the 19th Annual NAGC Symposium

This past month, the Dougy Center was proud to host the 19th Annual Symposium of the National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC). For those who may not be as familiar with it, NAGC is the oldest professional organization focused on children and adolescent grief. NAGC was launched in large part due to the diligent work of The Dougy Center in training 200 other grief centers throughout the country and also to the specific efforts of our very own, Donna Schuurman, who is a founding Alliance member.

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Reflections on Mother’s Day

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Albert Schweitzer

There are many expressions of motherhood; likewise there are many relationships surrounding ‘motherhood’ that can complicate a seemingly benign holiday. Mother’s Day is typically about honoring and remember our mothers, but the day can bring up mixed emotions, anxieties, and a sense of isolation for those children and teens whose mother has died. For women who’ve had a child die, Mother’s Day may hold painful associations. The ‘Hallmark card’ pressure to celebrate on that day may contribute to feelings of being different from peers and friends.

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Who Am I Now? Losing and finding yourself in grief

When someone dies, we grieve not only for the person and who they were in our lives, but also for who we were before the death. People can be both surprised and disoriented by how the death changes them. No one tells us that the death of someone else can lead to grief over the loss of self. As a parent in one of our grief groups remarked, “I had no idea I’d change so much, I knew I would be devastated and miss my daughter, but I assumed I’d stay the same person I was before she died.” As Joan Didion writes in “The Year of Magical Thinking,” her memoir of the first year after her husband’s sudden death, “We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”

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