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Friday, September 24, 2021

Bereavement program helps young adults cope with loss

HANNAH HUNTER / COURTESY
HANNAH HUNTER / COURTESY

Eight week session to begin Feb. 9

On Feb. 9, a young adult bereavement group will commence at the Homecare Services Building, located at 3630 Business Drive in Sacramento. The free group serves 17- to 24-year-olds who are coping with loss by using a combination of talk and art therapy to help them work through the problems they face. The therapy sessions are eight weeks long, take place every six months and have been running for about eight years.

Donald Lewis, the bereavement group co-founder and UC Davis Hospice Program bereavement and volunteer coordinator, has helped run the group since the first session in 2008. Lewis emphasizes that the program fills an important gap for teenagers and young adults who are transitioning into adulthood.

“[When] you are transitioning from being at home with family to getting out on your own […] it’s a time when there really isn’t a lot of support available […] Often times to just meet with people their own age and feel supported as they’re going through grief [can be very beneficial] […] [we give] them some tools to cope with what they’re going through,” Lewis said.

HANNAH HUNTER / COURTESY
HANNAH HUNTER / COURTESY

Lewis highlights that the program has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from participants who have benefited from the support. She added that Hannah Hunter, the art therapist and co-founder of the program, has been a key to the success of the group by incorporating art into talk therapy sessions.

“Talking about grief is a very difficult thing for most people […] When you have somebody who is 17 to 24, the brain is still developing, they’re in a stage where they’re […] reaching forward, you’ve got a job, you’re going to school, you’ve got a girlfriend or a boyfriend. When grief happens it kind of catapults you back, it’s a regressive thing,” Hunter said.

According to Hunter, art allows patients to express their emotions in a visual form, opening up a doorway which allows people to discuss their feelings with greater ease and comfort.

“What’s so great is you can get a circle of people […] and as soon as you give them that art project and they open up, then some of those feelings are outside of themselves. When something is outside of [you] […] it’s easier to talk about […] you can begin to process it,” Hunter said.

When the program was initially set up, it required funds and a grant from the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) helped the idea become a reality. CMN also operates on a national level and runs a CMN branch in Davis. The local branch raises funds for the UC Davis Children’s hospital; the money funds annual projects and strategic initiatives to support research, clinical care and children’s services at the Hospital.

Jacquelyn Mills, development director at UC Davis Children’s Hospital and CMN, says that one of the main reasons that the bereavement program received funding is that it served a community that was previously lacking resources.

“The bereavement program was a really wonderful program because it [helped] […]  a bunch of people who don’t normally get access [to support services]. It was one of the programs that was scored very highly [by the grant committee] and so we were able to fund them,” Mills said.

For additional information about the group, contact Donald Lewis by email at delewis@ucdavis.edu or by phone at 916-734-1139.

Written By: JUNO BHARDWAJ-SHAH – city@theaggie.org

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