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An important resource for coping with grief and loss

The holiday season is a time for celebration, traditions and the joy of making memories while spending time together. But for many of us, the holiday season can be extremely difficult, especially when we lose someone close to us.

When my grandparents passed away several years ago, I noticed that I was more detached during the holiday season. This time of year was more stressful and less pleasurable for me until I started becoming more intentional about creating newer traditions with my family such as hosting holiday dinners, which were followed by fun games and outings.

If you struggle during the holidays, I encourage you to find coping tools to help create balance with emotional stability. Effective coping tools include exercise, meditation, social connection, reading, giving back, journaling, adequate nightly sleep, a well-balanced diet and therapy. Explore some of these to see which ones are best for you.

That brings me to an important local resource for children, teenagers and families experiencing grief and loss: Adam’s Place.

Executive Director Kelly Thomas-Boyers started the nonprofit after son Adam was killed in a car wreck in 2007.

“After the crash happened, I felt like I had no guideline, no book, no reference point,” she said. “Culturally in my family, it was always ‘Pick yourself up by your bootstraps.’ My dad was a World War II veteran, and he was very tenacious and had a lot of resiliency, and that was a model for me, but my boots had been blown off and I did not know what to do.”

Despite her struggles, Thomas-Boyers said, she was most concerned about her 16-year-old son, who was coping with the loss of his only brother. She recalls conducting a thorough online search to find what was helpful for children dealing with grief and loss.

“I found a lot of research on peer support groups and their effectiveness,” she said. “Kids learn in groups; they like to feel more normalized and less isolated.”

She also discovered that there were not many peer support groups for children experiencing grief and loss across Nevada, and she wanted to fill that void.

In her search, Thomas-Boyers was surprised to learn how many children are affected: “One out of 12 kids in Nevada will lose a parent or sibling prior to the age of 18,” she said.

Beyond filling a gap within the community with a valuable resource, another key component of Adam’s Place is bringing providers together and forming partnerships.

Partnering has created additional opportunities for advocacy and education among these various groups and communities.

Stigma and pathology are often connected to grief, Thomas-Boyers said, and she wants everyone to know that grief is a normal reaction to loss and that everyone grieves differently and for varying lengths of time.

Adam’s Place will continue expanding its reach through the myriad of programs and services it provides, including its annual National Conference on Children’s Grief Support Groups.

“We want to help keep the conversations going, keep doors open,” Thomas-Boyers said, “and help people when they are most vulnerable and shoulder to shoulder with us.”

To learn more about her organization and its work, visit adamsplacelv.org.

Dr. Sheldon A. Jacobs, Psy.D., LMFT, is a licensed mental health professional based in Las Vegas. Contact him at drjacobs10@hotmail.com. Follow @drjacobs33 on X and Instagram.

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