June 25, 2021

The Grief Club of Minnesota

A Place to Be Belong

It’s human nature that we all want a place to go where we belong. A place where we feel accepted, welcomed and understood. A quote from Jane Howard depicts this thought so eloquently, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

As grief counselors, we call our place “a club”…The Grief Club of Minnesota. It’s not necessarily a club that you choose to be a part of because you didn’t choose for your loved one to die, but it’s a club nonetheless, no matter where you are in your grief journey.

Supporting Grieving Children and Teens

As founders of The Grief Club of Minnesota, we understand the sense of wanting to belong; to be understood as a grieving young person. We both experienced the death of significant family members when we were young. Our grief journeys inspired our dedicated 40+ year professional careers as social workers in the field of death, dying and bereavement, with a special emphasis on supporting grieving children and teens.

We both have a long history as hospice social workers, school, grief counselors and are co-founders of Grief Care Counseling, a private grief therapy practice. We are certified Field Traumatologists and have counseled thousands of grieving children, teens, young adults and families in grief support groups, individual and family counseling. As highly skilled crisis and trauma specialists, we are frequently called upon during death-related events for schools and in the community. We have both have written and published numerous grief support curriculums, books, memory journals and have spoken locally and nationally on the topic of childhood bereavement.

The Dougy Center; Sarah’s visit

One of Sarah’s first times as a presenter was at the National Alliance of Grieving Children Conference in Portland, Oregon, over twenty years ago. While in Portland, she visited the first grief center in the country, The Dougy Center. Their philosophy of bringing children and families together to grieve and heal, not only as a family unit but together with their peers, was deeply inspirational and admirable to me. It was then that Sarah knew in her heart that one day, she and other like-minded people, would open a grief center in Minnesota…a club where grieving people, of all ages, would feel connected and supported.

A Shared Vision

Years later, we met and discovered that we shared the same vision of a grief center. In our quest for developing a grief center in Minnesota; together, we toured many centers throughout the country, gathering information and ideas on programming, policies, building layouts and budgets. Through in-person visits and countless emails and phone calls, we developed important and meaningful relationships with many executive directors of other grief centers throughout the United States.

One of those relationships was with Brook Griese, Ph.D, Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder of Judi’s House in Denver, Colorado. We remain grateful for her trusting words:

“Cara and Sarah have the professional experience and bereavement expertise to make The Grief Club of Minnesota a safe and powerful place of healing and growth. Perhaps more importantly, they have a personal passion and energy for this mission that is vital to the success and sustainability of what will undoubtedly be an invaluable asset for the state.”

The Grief Center of Minnesota Vision

So, what is a grief center and how does how does it differ from traditional grief counseling? For starters, The Grief Club will focus services and programming on whole-person, whole-family care at no cost to participants. The Grief Club of Minnesota‘s mission is “to provide a place where grieving children, teens and families find connections, share their experiences and heal.” It will be a one-of-a-kind place surrounded by the tranquility of nature and has been specifically designed to allow and enhance the processing of grief through multiple modalities of healthy grief expression for all ages. The Club will have art and music therapy rooms, dedicated space for yoga and meditation, a large kitchen for gatherings and many other amenities to process memories and make new ones. Licensed mental health counselors will provide wellness education, resource information and, most importantly, comfort and care as they foster healthy grief responses one child, and one family, at a time.

We recognize that grief support programming needs to begin before we will have a permanent location. Given the rising numbers of death in our state by suicide, homicide, opioids and COVID-19 and the fact that 1 in 14 children in the United States will experience the death of a parent or sibling by the age of 18*, it is imperative, now more than ever, that grieving kids and their families have a place to go to receive compassionate whole-family care from licensed mental health counselors.

Non-profit Partner and Board of Directors:

With that noted, The Grief Club of Minnesota is grateful to have partnered with a large and respected non-profit organization to utilize their space for upcoming programming until The Grief Club has its own space. Because grief doesn’t end, participants will be welcomed into the programming whenever it feels right for them…days, months and even years after the death.

The Grief Club’s Board of Directors are committed, dedicated and compassionate individuals who bring a wide range of skills, talents and personal grief stories to the forward movement of the nonprofit. They, along with the two of us, are working collaboratively with community leaders and community members to assure that the plans are strategically and methodically in place to ensure the successful implementation and long-term sustainability of The Club.

There are, and will continue to be, so many big and small, beautiful and meaningful ways to support kids like Tommy, and his family at The Club. For more information, to sign up for The Grief Club of Minnesota’s newsletter and to watch a two-part, seven minute video on the mission and vision, please visit the website: www.griefclubmn.org.

*Judi’s House. (2020). Childhood Bereavement EstimationModel. Retrieved from www.judishouse.org/CBEM.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Sarah Kroenke, LSW, FT and Cara Mearns- Thompson, LICSW, FT for introducing us to The Grief Club of Minnesota. For more information, Sarah and Cara invite you to contact them at connect@griefclubmn.org or www.griefclubmn.org.