Emily Linnert -
HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) The loss of a loved one can be traumatic and life-altering as we work through the grieving process. And children grieve differently.
Families who experience loss often find themselves asking how they can help their children get through that process.
One West Michigan family searched near and far and found the answer in Ele's Place.
"Kinda the story you hear about [that] you think will never happen to you," recalled Angela Reynolds.
What happened to Reynolds and her son, Tanner, one spring day back in 2011 would change their family forever. Ariana Noel was Tanner's 9-month-old sister and Angela's baby girl. She never woke up from her nap that day.
It happened in the safest of places -- at home -- and 3-year-old Tanner was there to see every minute of the chaos, confusion and loss.
"I remember driving home from the hospital that day and our only thought was, 'What are we going to do for him?" Reynolds said.
After searching as far south as Illinois, north to Traverse City and east to Detroit, the Reynolds family found its answer in Lansing at Ele's Place: a healing center for grieving children.
"They meet with these other kids that have the same confusion of feelings and the same need for something solid to hold onto and they find each other," Reynolds said.
The Reynolds made the weekly trip from their home in Holland to Lansing, where they started to heal.
"If you can talk about it, you can find out what happened to other people and you're not that different from them," Tanner said.
And talking made a difference.
"We went from a family that was sullen and silent at the table because we didn't know what to say to each other anymore to a family who was laughing and singing in the car," Reynolds said.
Part of healing for little Tanner, according to Reynolds, was learning to trust: a key component of the healing happening at Ele's Place.
"Ele's Place gave all three of us what we needed to move on until we had enough strength to do it ourselves," she said.
The Reynolds family of three is now four again; Maddie is 5 years old and Reynolds says she talks often of her big sister in heaven.
While the Reynolds traveled to the Ele's Place in Lansing, there's now an Ele's Place in Grand Rapids. For details, visit elesplace.org.
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