I've written many times about Carolyn Zahnow, who lost her only child to suicide. Zahnow has written a book and talked to groups about her story and how to identify depression in teens.
Zahnow has recently opened The Shore Grief Center where people, from ages 6 to adult, can find help through peer-based grief support groups. Her hope is that she can help other families avoid the devastating loss that her own family has suffered.
“My son lost his dad when he was almost 15 years old. His grief manifested into major depression and to make himself feel better, he self-medicated with drugs ultimately becoming addicted to meth," she said. "The combination of depression and drug abuse caused him to end his life when he was 18 years old. I wish someone had suggested grief counseling for my son. If they had, he might be here today.”
The center has three active groups with more planned for the future.
The current groups are:
- Cameron's Kids Grief Group, a group for children ages 6 to 11 who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, grandparent or friend. It meets for eight concurrent weeks on Thursday nights at Wake Forest United Methodist Church. The 45-minute sessions include art therapy as well as high energy free play, both of which allow time for the kids to share their concerns surrounding their grief. The group allows a safe place for kids to talk freely about the person who died.
- Save the Teens Grief Groups are held in two Franklin County high schools – Franklinton and Bunn high schools. Counselors at both schools act as co-facilitators to Zahnow. The school counselors invite students they know have experienced a recent death to join the group. The group meets during the school day for 45 minutes once a week for eight weeks. These groups include a curriculum that has a component of art therapy.
- The Wake Forest Survivors of Suicide support group has been active since 2007. This group is for adults who have lost someone to suicide. The group currently meets once a month (the second Thursday) at Wake Forest United Methodist Church. Plans for this group include adding an additional meeting during the month as well as providing in-home assistance to families who have recently experienced a loss via suicide.
Future plans include a drop-in Save the Teens group for teens ages 12 to 17 and one for young adults ages 18 to 24. The center also plans to offer a Compassionate Friends meeting for parents who have lost a child at any age, a group for pet loss and a group for women who have miscarried during pregnancy.
While Zahnow brings her own personal experience to the center, she also has attended facilitator training from The Link Counseling Center in Atlanta and child and adolescent facilitator training from the Dougy Center. She is a member of the National Alliance for Grieving Children and the American Association of Suicidology.
There is no charge to attend the groups, though the center will count on community support through donations and grants.
For details, go to the center's website.