Mary Mueting, a dedicated volunteer at Ele’s Place, a support center for grieving children and their families, walks with children as they take a journey through the many facets of grief. Ele’s Place Ann Arbor serves families who are grieving due to the loss of a close family member, offering age-appropriate support groups for children and their families. Children’s groups often incorporate activities that help children to express themselves more freely, something they often cannot do at home or at school.
Mueting has served as a volunteer facilitator since 2009, lending a listening ear to children who are ready to open up about the death in their family. “As a facilitator,” Mary explains, “I am a listener. I do not judge, or try to give advice to our kids. I simply want them to have an opportunity to discuss what it is that may be on their mind regarding the death, preceding the death, or questions they still have.”
In these groups, the children help each other as well, often forming a bond with other children who have experienced a similar loss in their life. Mary views her role as a support; “The person who is grieving leads us through their path. We are people who are there to let them know they are not alone… I will remind them how strong they are, that they are good and are loved.”
The power of grief
Mueting is passionate about advocating for children in the community by urging others to realize the importance of allowing children the time and safety to grieve, each in their own way, on their own time. Mary understands the power of grief and loss, having lost her oldest sister, Sue, to cancer. Sue’s daughters were ages four and one at the time of her passing. “Spending time with my sister’s family during her illness and after her death helped me realize how strong grief is… You are forever changed when someone important to you dies. But I realized through my own grief that you can make something positive come from the loss by sharing with others and allowing others to share with you.”
The most rewarding aspect of volunteering at Ele’s Place? The kids of course! “I feel privileged and honored to hear their personal journeys of grieving and loss. But I also enjoy seeing their joy and happiness as they recall wonderful memories too,” Mary confides. “And with the kids, it is fun to play or joke lightheartedly. We are allowed to have fun! I love that the relationship we form with the kids can build a bridge of trust.”
Parents can help their children through grief by providing a safe place for them to share their feelings. Children need a healthy outlet, like journaling or sports, depending on the child. Don’t be afraid to share memories of that person’s life, “especially recalling memories that make us smile and laugh,” Mueting shares. “Children want to remember the good memories most, so talking about them helps them to retain those special times.”
For more information about Ele’s Place and the services they offer, visit www.elesplace.org.