A place to grieve
Is there a way one can learn how to grieve? Learn how to move on after someone very close suddenly passes? Drew’s Place, a nonprofit grief and loss center in Nevada City, teaches adults, teenagers, and children just that – how to cope with the loss of a loved one.
“Ten years ago, I wanted to do this,” said Ann Heinrich, a licensed marriage-family therapist who founded Drew’s Place. “My daughter was in high school and some kids were killed that summer in a car accident, and I went to the school to see if I could be of any help. My daughter’s boyfriend was deeply affected. He was in the same football team with the other boys (who were killed). The staff said that the kids would be back in football practice and that they were fine. I decided then that I really needed to help the kids who were affected.”
A need to interact more with children confronted with loss is what prompted Heinrich – who was working at a hospice – to establish Drew’s Place, where anyone can get counseling and assistance free of charge, for as long as they need it.
The center opened in October 2004, and was named after Drew Reynolds, a Nevada City resident who was killed in an accident earlier that year.
“I had already taken training in Oregon to open a center,” Heinrich recalled. “Drew Reynolds really represented people in our community and I thought it would be good to name it after him. His sister was a friend of my daughter, and Lore (Reynolds’ widow) and the girls (Reynolds’ daughters) thought it would be a good idea. So I asked volunteers who had a background in grief and kids, and trained them. We had flyers made and started in October.”
Since then, there has been no looking back. The center now caters to 10 to 15 teenagers per semester from Bear River and Nevada Union high schools, besides the families from the community who come for help.
Janet Gillespie, a speech and language pathologist in the Grass Valley school district, and her two sons were among the first group of clients. In 2004, Gillespie had lost her husband in a gyrocopter crash and felt overwhelmed by financial worries.
“I just went there to figure out if what I was doing, and grieving, was typical for a person in my situation,” she said. “We had tried counseling (elsewhere) on an individual basis but it wasn’t the correct fit for us. (At Drew’s Place) it was really helpful for a single parent, working, to get the support for each of us at the same time.”
Drew’s Place has separate rooms for adults, teenagers and children. There is also a large all-purpose room for larger groups and events. From the books, toys and equipment in the rooms, one can guess the varied means clients are taught to deal with their suffering.
“We give them handouts, we give them a place for them to talk with other people who’ve lost someone, we tell them that the feelings they are feeling are normal. This is what happens when the loss in there,” said Bob Campbell, facilitator at the center. “We use music, collages, we use drawings, we use readings, we use anything that we think is going to help the group.”
Different people find different ways to accept the bitter truth.
Gillespie said she found solace by telling her story to others. Lore Reynolds, on the other hand, who belonged to the same group, said she benefited by listening to what others had to say.
“When we were in a group, we would talk about how our kids were handling (the sorrow), the relatives, and how we are going to handle the holidays and the one-year anniversary of the tragedy,” Gillespie said. “There’s a bond that swarms in the group.”
The only issue facing Drew’s Place now is the matter of funds. According to Heinrich, as long as the center can pay the running costs, she is OK with the situation.
In 2005, $4,000 in proceeds from a softball tournament on the Memorial Day weekend in the memory of Drew Reynolds, was donated to Drew’s Place by Lore. She hopes to do the same this year too. Anyone can donate to the center and it is tax deductible.
“Nobody is taught how to grieve,” Lore said. “It (Drew’s Place) gives you the tools to know that you are not alone and that there are other people there who feel the way you do.
“Maybe their stories could help you move forward.”
To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4229.
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