Learning to cope with loss

HOUGHTON – Teens who are experiencing loss for whatever reason may not express grief associated with that loss in a way their parents or other adults can see, and coping with loss is the intent of a retreat for teens to be conducted on June 14.

Ray Weglarz, development director of programs for teens at Omega House hospice in Houghton and coordinator of the retreat, said often parents and other adults may not be aware of the depth of grief some teens go through.

“Teens are often considered the forgotten grievers,” he said. “The effects of grief on teens are profound.”

To help teens cope with loss and grief, Weglarz said a one-day retreat called Healthy Coping With Change and Loss will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14 at the Marsin Nature Center on Red Brick Road in Stanton Township. There is no cost to attend. Omega House is the sponsor of the event, but also involved are the Keweenaw Community Foundation, Superior Health Foundation and the Rice Memorial Clinic Foundation.

Weglarz said the event is funded by a grant from the KCF Youth Advisory Council. Donations to Omega House were not used.

Information about the retreat was sent to local school counselors and hospice and social workers, Weglarz said.

The retreat isn’t just for teens who have experienced a death of someone close to them. It’s for those who are experiencing any kind of loss, which causes grief, such as the divorce of parents.

“It’s more than just someone dying,” he said.

During the day, Weglarz said teens will be broken into groups to take part in presentations by facilitators who include Kim Menzel, licensed clinical social worker (Introduction to mindfulness training), Musician Erika Vye (Exploring rhythms), Photographer Steve Brimm (Nature photography with iPads and cell phones), Chef Carley Williams (Choosing and preparing healthy foods), Dr. Mary Hindelang (A healthy sense of place) and Dr. Larry Skendzel, medical director of Camp STAR (Sharing Together and Remembering) bereavement camp for children and teens located at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay (The language of loss).

In an email, Skendzel stated it’s important to address grief when it happens.

“In my view, grief is a ‘pay me now or pay me later’ proposition,” he wrote. “You can’t run away or lock these deep emotions into a dark closet. They eventually find their way out in unpredictable and unpleasant ways, in my experience.”

Skendzel wrote the retreat for teens coping with loss will be an important event.

“I think communities who turn towards those facing the loss of loved ones and lend a listening ear are making a big contribution to the health of the young people that live there,” he wrote. “Communities that turn away, pay in all sorts of unexpected and tragic ways.”

Weglarz said all the facilitators for the retreat have experienced loss in some way.

There will be opportunities for the teens who attend the retreat to share their experiences, Weglarz said, but it won’t be required.

“It’s going to be a fun day with lots of activities,” he said. “(The retreat) is very important and it’s connected to (the Omega House) mission.”