Hope Tree raises children’s grief awareness

Hope Tree raises children’s grief awareness

Hope Tree raises children’s grief awareness

A ceremony observing Children’s Grief Awareness Day took place Thursday night at the Winnemucca Convention Center. The ceremony was held by the Frontier Community Action Agency and Hope Tree grief support group.

Before the ceremony began, children and adults decorated glass memory jars with markers, stickers, stamps and pictures cut out of magazines. Each wrote messages to loved ones to place inside their jar and received a small flameless tealight. They also drew and decorated a butterfly on plastic film.

"Hope" the butterfly, is the symbol for Children’s Grief Awareness Day, held every year since 2008 on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. The holiday season can be particularly difficult for those who have lost loved ones.

Suspended from the ceiling was an aspen branch with a few crispy leaves still clinging to it. Part of the branch was wrapped in blue lights with a string of shells and a string of marigolds hanging from it. A triangle of tall candles flickered and glowed beneath, encircled by flower petals.

Adults and kids sat in chairs arranged in a circle, facing the branch at the center of the room. At a table in the corner, ceremony organizer Monica Gonzalez played white crystal singing bowls.

At the beginning of the event, Mayor pro tempore Paige Brooks read the proclamation naming Nov. 16, 2017 Children’s Grief Awareness Day in Winnemucca. The proclamation encouraged adults to “let grieving children know they are not forgotten in the midst of their grieving,” and reminded adults that children “can’t just get over it” when a loved one dies.

Gonzalez said children’s grief doesn’t always manifest in ways adults can recognize and that even when they are smiling, kids still experience “inner turmoil” and feel alone.

“How do we continue to support and lift each other up in that space? How do we educate our educators in holding that space?” Gonzalez asked.

“Regardless of the circumstances, we need to honor the people who have left before us and hold them, and remember them in all those memories that come through them.”

During the short ceremony, people in the circle of chairs hung their butterflies on the Aspen limb and offered one word describing their lost loved ones. They used words like “gracious,” “kind,” “joyful” and “energetic.”

Then they turned on their tea lights and placed them in their decorated jars.

At the end of the ceremony, Gonzalez read the children’s book "The Invisible String" by Patrice Karst. The book explained that people are connected by “a very special string made of love” that never breaks, no matter how far apart people are. Not even death can break it, the book says.

The aspen branch used in the ceremony held special significance. Aspen trees grow as one connected organism, Gonzalez said. The connected root system means that aspen trees are never alone. Aspens are also resilient, growing back first after a fire.

Hope Tree is doing a presentation about supporting a grieving child during the holidays on Dec. 14 from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. at Global Coffee. Call FCAA for more details at 775-623-9003.