Kate's Club helps children cope with death

ATLANTA -- When Josiah was only 7 years old, he lost his father.

"He was a painter. He was a very loving man and he was great as a father to me. I loved him so much," the now-17 year old said. "He had a heart attack and an asthma attack at the same time."

Josiah felt lost and isolated after his father's death.

"For me, the toughest parts of my life have been when he wasn't there," he said. "I played Little League and he wasn't there. I thought I was strange and maybe weird because I didn't have a father."

Founded a dozen years ago by Kate Atwood, who lost her mother to breast cancer when she was just 12, Kate's Club has become a national model for how to help children grieve and move forward. All the kids at the club share profound loss -- of a parent or a sibling.

Atwood stands in a hallways filled with memory tiles, strung from floor to ceiling, each sheet of laminated paper is the child's traced hand and at the center is the person they've lost. At Kate's Club, the kids not only make art, they play, they are encouraged to remember.

"A very real thought is, I don't want this person to be forgotten," Atwood said.

Nov. 20 is National Children's Grief Awareness Day -- a day that didn't exist that long ago. Here's what Atwood says we can all do for any young person we know who has lost someone this year, or 20 years ago:

"I want everyone to know that they have permission to just let that person know that you care and that you're there. Ironically it is the one thing that will unite all of us in a lifetime. We will all grieve. We will all lose somebody. That is the philosophy around Kate's Club, that your life is changed but you still have so much to live for. And you need that support to keep moving forward."


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