How Ele’s Place is helping grieving children in Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – This week for Your Neighborhood, we turn to a sensitive topic and a local organization that is helping us sort it all out.

Death is something that will touch all of us at some point in our lives. Dealing with it is hard, especially for children. Thankfully, there’s a special place that’s here to help.

It’s enough to get Bree Arvai choked up. Seeing and hearing children and teens talk about death and their emotions grieving can be emotional. She sees it daily as the director of Ele’s Place.

“We’re a healing center for grieving children and teens ages 3-18,” said Arvai. “We provide peer support groups for children, teens and adults caretakers.”

For nearly 30 years now, Ele’s Place has served as a space for children and teens to connect and share feelings with others who are also dealing with death. The non profit was started by Betsy and Woody Stover who lost their daughter Ele at just 11 months old.

Now, three decades later, Ele’s place has four locations across Michigan including right here in Ann Arbor, helping families cope.

“They would call Ele’s Place and speak to one of our bereavement coordinators,” said Arvai. “We can provide support to a grieving family from that very first phone call. From there they are placed in a support group.”

The support groups meet and begin the healing process. For children, the support staff makes sure that they understand death and can process what happened to their loved one.

“We use various words that help with language development especially at the younger ages so really being concrete with language and simple,” Arvai said. “Using words like death and died. We don’t want there to be any kind of confusion in terms of using terms like lost or they went to sleep. That does not really help the child understand that the person they lost is no longer living.”

And coming to terms with the finality of death and how to cope with their emotions.

“One would not want to think that Ele’s Place is a place of sadness and grief,” she said. “Those things definitely happen but it is also a very joyful place here. The fact that we exist and we can help others at a time that is so challenging in their life and kind of provide them the tools and the skills to move forward with their grief is extremely incredible.”

And their services are free of charge for as long as the child needs. They’re here to help you.

“Our vision is that no child grieves alone and so we are here to support that child or teen.”

Ele’s Place works with schools helping students deal with death there. They can help families within the first phone call.

If you or your family need help dealing with the death of a loved one please call: 734-929-6640 or visit https://www.elesplaceannarbor.org/

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