News

How one program is working to making loss easier on kids

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 17, 2014 4:00 AM

Ben Allen sat down with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Vitez to talk about death and grief. His 1997 series that won the Pulitzer focused on the topic. Find that conversation here.

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(Shippensburg) -- The city of Boston is looking back to when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

A year ago this week, three died in the immediate aftermath and an MIT police officer was killed in the manhunt that followed. Marcie and Randy Taylor of Franklin County know the kind of grief felt by the families of those who lost their lives.

In 2006, they suddenly lost their son Drew in a car accident while on vacation in North Carolina. Out of the tragedy, they developed the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation. Now, it’s celebrating its five year anniversary.

The foundation is centered around recovery for kids who have lost a loved one. Its signature program is called Drew’s Hope – which operates seven group sessions with Shippensburg University counseling students and professors. 

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"What’s amazing is usually when they’ve experienced loss, they want to talk about it, and they want someone to open that floodgate and say it’s okay to talk about it, because we’re so used to people not wanting to hear about our deceased loved one," says Marcie Taylor, Vice President of the Foundation.

She’s really made it her life. Before Drew’s death, she was a teacher. Now, she’s a stay-at-home mom devoted to the cause. It’s not just about making the services available – for Marcie, it’s about changing a dynamic.

"As a society, we just don’t talk about grief enough. If you don’t know how to talk about it or how to face these situations, find a resource that can help you do that. We have to become familiar of how to do that."

Drew’s Hope sprang out of what Marcie saw as a need in the Chambersburg area. In 2006, she and her daughter would have to drive nearly an hour each way to get her to a grief counseling group for children. Now, her group is ready to answer those needs, closer to home.

"It’s just, this thing of beauty. It flows very naturally."

Parents, older relatives and others also have a chance to get help, just in a separate session. All it takes is for one grieving child for the doors to swing open. The kid’s group is divided by age, while the adults are separated by the type of loss.

"What’s nice about Drew’s Hope, they know that at least for that 90 minute session, their kids are being well taken care of. They see the job, they see the laughter, they see the smiles."

As for the grieving itself, Marcie Taylor says since the death of her son Drew, the conversation has shifted in her family.

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"The triggers will come, and I think the experience of having been through it before helps. In the first year, the trigger would come and it would really knock you down. Okay now the triggers come, and I get back up more quickly."

Drew’s loss will be something she says will be with her, her husband and her daughter forever. Now, it’s just about how they address it. For grieving families, she preaches being proactive. Don’t sit and hope the grief will go away. Take it on -- as difficult as that may be. For families that aren’t grieving from a sudden death but know someone who is? She offers some advice.

"There’s nothing you can say to somebody. Nothing will make it better, nothing will bring their loved one back."

Marcie says because she and her husband were teachers, they got hundreds of cards after the accident.

"But the one card that stands out, said no words. He just clung to that. There are no words that could’ve helped or made it better."

And that’s the point. Sometimes she says, it’s all about just listening. But to get to such a conversation about grief and death, someone has to make the first move.

"There’s a great need out there, there’s a renewed interest in grief and loss, death and dying and I just need to see that going."

The foundation plans to expand to the Greencastle area later this year. It also pays for some kids to attend summer camps as they work their way back to a semblance of a normal life.

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