Resources — and community awareness of them — unified a complex discussion of suicide, homicide and trauma at a webinar hosted Friday by the MU Family Impact Center and the National Alliance for Grieving Children.
“The benefit is to — first of all — form a group of people who are concerned about this and just bringing information and concerns of grief to the forefront,” said Kathy Dothage, a human development and family studies professor at MU Extension.
A diverse group of 11 counselors, mothers and students faced a projector to watch and discuss the seminar, which took place at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
“I think with using technology, we can have experts,” Dothage said. “The three speakers we heard today, we would have never been able to have.”
Janet McCord, who spoke about suicide, opened her presentation by quoting a song from the musical “Rent,” which talks about how one measures a year of life. She used the example of 525,600 minutes from the song “Seasons of Love” to jumpstart a conversation on what a year looks like for a family affected by suicide.
McCord gave strategies and practices for supporting children, schools and households affected by this type of loss.
“It takes a village to prevent suicide,” McCord said. “We need both quantitative and qualitative research.”
Tashel Bordere gave a talk titled “The Suffocated Grief of Marginalized Youth Bereaved by Homicide Loss: On Honoring our Ethical Responsibilities.” She focused on how loss and grief differ in cases of homicides of marginalized groups and the contexts that need to be considered.
Bordere talked about community resources, language use and ethical practices, as well as focusing on the life of someone rather than just the death.
“Not just a death story, but a life story,” she said.
She ended with “the five A’s of culturally conscientious care,” which she defined as “acknowledge, ask, accept, align and apologize.”
The webinar ended with a third session on school support for grieving students. Debbie and William Hoy gave personal testimonies to their experiences with trauma related to a car accident that killed William Hoy’s close friend.
“Trauma is a marathon, not a sprint,” Debbie Hoy said. “If you’re gonna run a marathon, one trains different than if you’re gonna run a sprint.”
Educational programming like Friday’s is just a start for MU Extension, which is planning another webinar in April on helping children with funerals. Dothage said the April webinar might reach a broader audience.
Details for the April webinar and future programming can be found through the MU Family Impact Center.
Supervising editor is Hannah Hoffmeister.