‘It was completely unexpected’: R.I.S.E. Northwest helps children who lost loved ones

SPOKANE, Wash. — On the morning of May 9, 2020, Ami Summerfield and her eight-year-old daughter woke up to find their entire world changed. Ami’s partner died, leaving gaping holes in her and her daughter’s hearts

“We woke up to some letters that were written on the door taking his life that night,” Summerfield said. “It was completely unexpected. I mean we had plans for Memorial Day weekend. It was just… yeah.”

She says her partner struggled with mental health and even more during the pandemic because of limited services and social isolation.

An even bigger challenge that came from the unexpected loss was how to help their daughter cope with the loss.

“I didn’t know how to communicate my grief in a way that wasn’t too heavy for her,” Summerfield said. “I tried to have the best communication I could but it’s hard to know if you are doing the right thing as a parent anyways. When it comes to things like this heavy. I think you have extra challenges you can’t really prepare for.”

Losing a loved one is hard, regardless of how old you are.

For young children, the pain they feel from loss can be overwhelming. A new report shows that during the pandemic, more than 140,000 children lost a parent or caregiver from April 2020 through June 2021.

Starting next month, a new organization named R.I.S.E. Northwest is launching a program providing resources for young children who lost loved ones.

Eight percent of children experience the death of a parent before their 18th birthday. Starting in October, the non-profit will open to show kids they are not alone in their grief.

R.I.S.E. Northwest has been a big resource in handling the grief, especially for Summerfield’s daughter.

“Families are coming to us saying this was never available before,” R.I.S.E. Northwest President Valarie Shayman Southerland said. “I didn’t know how to help my children cope with this loss and how to navigate post-loss.”

To make families feel less isolated, the goal is to provide children with non-clinical services like a mentorship program.

“First is camp cope which is a curriculum from nonprofits that serves similar populations from Las Vegas,” Southerland said. “Those sessions provide workshops to help kids gain language around their experience equipped with coping skills and help learn ways to navigate their loss.”

The organization expects more kids to join the program who are dealing with the aftereffects of COVID-19.

R.I.S.E Northwest is asking for more volunteers to help them out. If you are interested in being part of the mentorship, click here.

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