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Youth cope with grief in different ways

From: The Participants of the Youth Healing From Loss and Grief Workshop held in Fort Good Hope from Nov. 7 to 10, 2006. Compiled by Terry Garchinski of Life Works Counselling Services Inc. (www.lifeworks.cc)

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 04/06) - This past summer in Fort Good Hope, nine people died in two separate accidents. Three people died in a boating accident on July 22, 2006, while six people died in a plane accident on Aug. 16, 2006.

In response to these tragedies, Melinda Laboucan, the Youth Worker for the K'asho Got'ine Dene Band, invited Terry Garchinski and Jacqui Bent of Life Works Counselling Services Inc. to facilitate a four-day Loss and Grief Workshop for youth ages 12 to 25 of Fort Good Hope.

The workshop was held from Nov. 7 to 10, 2006. Eighteen youth participated in the workshop. Melinda Laboucan, Sr. Pauline Girodat, Sr. Joan Liss and Dana Eisinger also participated and acted as adult supports for the youth.

Given such sudden and tragic deaths, it was remarkable to see how well the youth are grieving and coping with the loss of their family members and friends.

As part of their healing, these young people wanted to share what has and is helping them deal with their losses.

This is a collective summary of what they said as individuals. Even though the following was spoken by many voices, it is written in the first person. These are their words summarized and spoken as one person who is consciously choosing to grieve and to heal:

"What has helped me is to receive the support of my parents, grandparents, big brother, older sister and friends: to know that I am not alone, even when I am feeling sad and lonely. It also helped when neighbours and community members came to my house to visit and showed me their love and support by offering food, sympathy cards and money for food, medicine and travel."

"I didn't die when the boat and the plane went down. The people I loved died. I am still alive and I am glad to be alive even as I sort through this pain. It is helpful to carry on with regular life. Doing homework helps me. It also helps to pat my dog, hang out with friends, watch TV, clean up around the house, eat, sleep, sit on the pot, listen to music, hug mom and play catch with dad."

"Getting out on the land has also helped. I like to go hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, driving my quad and boating. When I am picking berries, cleaning a fish or skinning a caribou, I am keeping busy in a good way but I also have time to think about stuff. I think it is okayto go back to the moment when I first heard about the accident. It gives me a chance to think about what happened, and sort through my thoughts and feelings. Even though this is hard to do, I feel better afterwards. It sure is a lot better than ignoring it. When I ignore it I get angry. I would rather be happy than sad and angry all the time."

"Sometimes it helps when I scream really loudly."

"It is helpful to get myself hyper and physically active. Playing sports helps me to move the energy that seems to be stuck in my body. I play hockey, snowboard, slide down the hill, snowball fight, play games outside and figure skate."

To be continued next week....