When Tragedy Strikes – Grief Counseling

vicsayra maribel garciaTragedy struck a quiet Taylorsville neighborhood last week when a one-year-old toddler was killed in a hit and run accident. Sadly, her 11-year-old aunt was the first to find little Vicsayra Maribel Garcia. The story really hit home for me, being a mother of a toddler myself, and imgagining the heartache and trauma for the entire family. 

One story that caught my attention was the Salt Lake Tribune article that mentioned the family was looking for an affordable counselor to help the children and  parents cope with the psychological trauma. Youth Services has offered free family counseling – including grief counseling – for more than 30 years to residents of Salt Lake County. But often those families either don’t know of the free service, there is a language barrier, or they don’t know how to find it when they are dealing with a crisis. We reached out to the Garcia family to let them know about our family therapy and that we offer counseling in Spanish, if needed. Hopefully, the family will take advantage of the offer and can start the healing process.

Dealing with loss affects different people in different ways, explained one of our family therapists Joyce Robison. What works for some people, doesn’t work for others and everyone deals with grief in their own time and in their own way. Some seek out counseling right away, and others wait until they feel they can handle the emotions more.  She recommends that anyone going through the process or who has a loved one dealing with a loss, to show patience and to let their loved ones -or themselves – go through the stages of grief.

garcia family mourning The Five Stages of Grief

The Kubler-Ross Model suggests there are five stages of grief for anyone going through a loss or life changing event, such as the death of a loved one, a terminal illness, divorce or addiction. The stages are not necessarily in any order and not everyone goes through every stage.

  1. Denial “This can’t be happening.”
  2. Anger “It’s not fair.”
  3. Bargaining “I would do anything for just one more day.”
  4. Depression “There’s no point to doing anything.”
  5. Acceptance “It’s going to be OK.”

Regardless of how one goes through the grieving process, there are plenty of resources to help one to start healing. One local program that our staff recommended was The Sharing Place , a non-profit grief support program for children 3 1/2 – 18 years and their families. They hold child support groups, teen support groups and adult discussion groups. The Sharing Place does not charge for the service but they do recommend a confidential monthly pledge from the families participating in the program.

The Sharing Place also lists a number of books and web sites for families and includes a great article on How to Help with Grief.

I particularly liked this list:

•Don’t avoid the bereaved.
•Remember to use the name of the person who died.
•Share memories if you knew them.
•Avoid asking too many questions.
•Listen without interrupting.
•Allow for silence and tears.
•Avoid making judgment.
•Be patient, grief is not orderly or predictable, AND it takes time, sometimes a REALLY LONG time.

Youth Services also compiles a Yellow Pages for Youth Directory each year that lists local resources, including crisis and family counseling agencies throughout the area. One that stood out to me was the Caring Connections Grief Program through the University of Utah College of Nursing. They hold 8 week bereavement support groups tailored to different kinds of grief * (They recommend allowing 6 weeks to pass between the time of death of the loved one and starting the group.)

In a perfect world, loss and heartache – like what the Garcia family is experiencing- would never happen. Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect. But hopefully those who are coping with a loss can find the method that works for them to begin the healing process and realize they aren’t alone.


About Tammy Champo

Youth Services became my second home six years ago as I ventured into the social services world. As the Public Relations and Communications Coordinator, I manage the online and offline communications materials, organize special events and coordinate volunteers and donations. In my "free" time, I enjoy singing/songwriting, snowboarding and swimming.
This entry was posted in Family Counseling, Teen Counseling, therapist and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to When Tragedy Strikes – Grief Counseling

  1. This is my first time to your website and your “Youth Booth” I was very impressed. I sent it on my emplyees. Good job!

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