Ele’s Place: a safe spot to grieve
By Ashlee Buhler
Editor in Chief
For the last 27 years, Ele’s Place has been a safe place for grieving children and teens in the Lansing area to begin their journey of healing.
What started as a small support group in the basement of a church has now turned into a multi-room grieving center that serves nearly 30 families a night.
The support groups, which are free of charge, take place once a week during the evenings Monday through Thursday.
“The groups really give kids an opportunity to connect with other kids their age who have also experienced a death of someone,” said Kelly Koerner, program director at Ele’s Place. “It really helps normalize their experience.
“When kids and teens are grieving they feel really isolated and alone. This gives them the opportunity to make connections with other kids that (understand what they’re going through).”
Ele’s Place offers support groups for kids ages 3 to 18, as well a group for the parent or guardian to attend concurrently.
The kids’ groups, which are facilitated by trained volunteers, are divided up by age with no more than 12 people per group. The adult group is facilitated by a licensed clinician and is separated by the type of death: death of a child, death of a spouse or partner, death by suicide, etc.
The center also offers a support group for young adult’s ages 18 to 26 — which many people do not know about, according to Koerner.
At Ele’s Place, the night begins in the family room with an (optional) potluck dinner. Then the groups break off to begin their grieving session, which typically lasts an hour.
“Every night in the group we start out with an opening circle where we share our name, our person that died and how they died,” Koerner said. “Kids can always pass if they want. If they don’t want to share they do not have to – it’s completely under their control … Then we move into the activity that we have planned and then we end with a closing ritual.”
During the duration of their session, each group has 15 minutes to spend in one of the activity rooms. This allows the kids to express themselves and have fun with an activity of their choice.
Koerner said having a non-judgmental place in the community to receive support is very important.
“In our society, we’re not very death friendly,” she said. “People don’t like to talk about death because it’s not easy to talk about.
“Kids need to be able to talk about their person that died in order to end up being happy, healthy and integrate that loss into their life. This gives them permission to do that.”
Ele’s Place is located at 1145 W. Oakland Ave. in Lansing. For more information or to enroll, call (517) 482-1315 or visit www.elesplace.org.