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MT Hosts Conference on Supporting Grieving Children


Monday, September 26, 2022   

A touring conference from the National Alliance for Children's Grief comes to Montana this week. The event will be in Whitefish on Tuesday.

The alliance works with organizations like the Tamarack Grief Resource Center in Missoula, which is organizing the Whitefish conference. Tina Barrett, executive director of the center, said it started as a camp 25 years ago to help kids and families heal after the death of a loved one.

"We can't take the pain away, but we can walk alongside and we can add strength to one another's journey," said Barrett. "And may we wrap children in not only care, but effective care - with understanding others, with opportunities to creatively, symbolically, physically, narratively move through their experience."

Since Montana is such a large state, Barrett said part of Tamarack's goal is to support education so folks can expand the circle of care for people who are grieving.

In Montana, one in 12 children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18, according to the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model.

Tami Sparks works at Tamarack Grief Resource Center as an outreach specialist and has personal experience with the work it does. Her husband died by suicide in 2006, leaving her with three children. Her oldest, who was five at the time, attended the camp that predated Tamarack. She said eventually, all three went to the camp every year.

Sparks said kids get the space to be children there, but also to talk about their feelings.

"They really attribute how they show up in the world to being involved with Tamarack," said Sparks. "They feel like going to camps gave them the experience and ability to understand where other people were coming from in their walk with grief."

The conference in Whitefish features three speakers who will discuss the losses many families have felt in the past two years of the pandemic. Barrett said they'll touch on a variety of topics.

"How do we look at cultural humility and center culture and equity in our programming that we do?" said Barrett. "How do we understand the prevalence, and more importantly, the story behind the numbers as we're seeking to more effectively support children's grief? And what are some practical takeaways?"

The conference begins at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The theme is "No Child Grieves Alone."

Disclosure: National Alliance for Children's Grief contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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