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State

Dubuque nonprofit to offer children’s grief support groups

DUBUQUE (AP) — A nonprofit organization seeks to establish the first children’s support groups in the Dubuque area, serving youths who have lost a family member or loved one.

Nearly 20 children have signed up to attend monthly meetings, which are being administered by a nonprofit organization, Live Like Jack.

“There is lots of support for adults that lose someone they love, but not for children,” said the organization’s executive director, Angie Hohmann.

The lack of options affected her family after her son, Jackson Hohmann, died unexpectedly in 2014 from an undiagnosed congenital malformation. He was 8 years old.

Angie initially coped by writing about the experience. Later, she founded Live Like Jack to honor his memory.

The Telegraph Herald reports that the organization has undertaken numerous charitable projects, including the distribution of Thanksgiving blessing bags and a “Be a Friend” walk.

In the aftermath of Jackson’s death, Hohmann found it helpful to speak with other parents who lost a child.

“For the first time after Jackson died, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really not alone,’” she said. “There is someone who has survived this, a year from now, two years from now.”

Jackson’s three younger sisters also learned to cope with his death.

“There are a lot of different struggles that my girls had,” Hohmann said. “I wanted to find something for them or somewhere for them where they could be around other children who could validate their feelings, but there wasn’t anything like that.”

Angie’s oldest daughter, Mia Hohmann, now 10, feels excited for the support group’s creation and intends to participate.

“I think it’s pretty cool because there are all of these people that have lost siblings and they’ve experienced what we’ve experienced,” Mia said. “Every day after school I would come to my mom and say, ‘It feels weird not having him around.’”

Hohmann hopes to create two children’s grief support groups, which will meet for the first time in October.

One group will serve children who are in kindergarten through second grade. A second group will cater to third- through sixth-graders.

About 10 children will fill each group and only a few slots are open, Hohmann said. She will facilitate meetings along with a social work student from Loras College.

Youth will have the chance talk about their loss and receive badges of courage for doing so. Other meetings will focus on feelings and the meaning of grief.

Even if the groups are full or underway by the time a child wishes to join, Hohmann said she will offer personal sessions with children.

Martha Gould, pediatric psychologist at Medical Associates Clinic in Dubuque, said children grieve in similar ways to adults, experiencing emotional states such as denial, anger, depression and acceptance.

“People are helped by really strong attachments and good connections and support and some of the stumbling blocks that kids can run into with grief really has roots in the developmental stage they are at,” she said.

Hohmann also has started collecting books for a lending library. It contains volumes on the subject of grief for both adults and children, which are free for the taking.

“The bigger we can make this for the community, the better this will be,” she said.

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