Working Through Grief in the Volcano Room
The Dougy Center, which provides peer support groups for grieving children and teens from three through 18 years of age and their families, as well as young adults 19 through 30, was founded in 1982 by Beverly Chappell in tribute to Dougy Turno, a young boy who died of an inoperable brain tumor at age 13. In August 1981, Dougy wrote a poignant letter to Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, pioneer and author in the field of death and dying, asking why no one would speak to him of dying, even when he was facing his own death. Dr. Kübler-Ross corresponded with Dougy, and encouraged Beverly Chappell to meet him and his family, which later led Chappell to start support groups for grieving children.
“Our mission is to provide support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences,” says Executive Director Donna L. Schuurman, EdD, FT. "Unsupported grieving can lead to poverty, depression, substance abuse, anti-social or suicidal behaviors, physical complications, and even criminal behavior. But The Dougy Center’s unique peer grief support program is preventative and helps to address these risk factors.” Participants meet others who also have experienced the death of a parent, primary caretaker, brother, sister or teen friend because of illness, accident, suicide or homicide. That was helpful to Wood, who came to The Dougy Center when she was 13.
“I knew that I needed some help; I came to The Dougy Center for about a year and a half,” says Wood. “Here we don’t believe grief is an eight-week program. For me, it was extremely powerful to be with kids and adult volunteers adults who listened to me and gave me a safe place to be. I really believe The Dougy Center saved my life. I might still be alive, but my life would look very different.”
“We continue to grow in the population that we serve, and just recently opened our second satellite location,” notes Wood. “We are the first organization of our kind in the country, and have trained more than 170 independent centers across the
“One of the wonderful things about being at The Dougy Center as a child was that I learned to incorporate my mom and her death into my life - into a part of who I am,” says Wood (left). “Grief is a natural reaction to a loss. There’s a quote that I like: ‘We grieve as deeply as we love.’ Grief is natural, and it’s normal, and it’s healthy. If kids are given the support they need, they will discover that they have within themselves the natural capacity to heal.”
-- Reported by I. van der Leeden
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