2023 Northwest Conference on Childhood Grief

In response to a call from local providers of children’s grief support, Safe Crossings Foundation presents the 9th Annual Northwest Conference on Childhood Grief. As the leader in funding grief support services for children in the Pacific Northwest, Safe Crossings Foundation is hosting a conference that provides continuing professional development credits while building community, sharing ideas and learning together.

This year’s two-day conference is designed to support providers such as clinicians, therapists and counselors, therapists-in-training, teachers, school staff, and healthcare workers.

When: Monday, February 27, 2023 from 8:00AM to 5:00PM PST and Tuesday, February 28, 2023 from 8:00AM to 12:30PM PST. 

Where: Seattle Children’s Sand Point Learning Center 
Address: 5801 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Registration Fees:
• Conference Admission: $150.00
• Student Conference Admission: $75.00

Scholarships are available upon request:
Safe Crossings Foundation strives to make professional development and continuing education credits accessible to all who provide grief support for children, teens and young adults in our region. We are offering our 2-day annual NW Conference on Childhood Grief for the price of $150 (unchanged since 2019). This price includes conference sessions, continuing education credits, and meals. For those attendees who are unable to afford the full price of the conference, a half-price student rate of $75 for the conference is offered. For additional scholarship information, please email: info@safecrossingsfoundation.org with Conference Scholarship Request in the subject line. Thank you!

ADA:  If you would like to request accommodation needs, please contact Zoe Ottemiller, Communications and Development Coordinator, at zoe@safecrossingsfoundation.org.

Conference Topics

Keynote Speakers

Alice Ryan Headshot

Alice Ryan, LICSW
Clinical Manager of the Journey Program, Seattle Children’s Bereavement Program and Lecturer, University of Washington School of Social Work

Attachment Styles and their Impact on Grief and Bereavement in Youth

Alice Ryan, LICSW and Clinical Manager of the Journey Program, Seattle Children’s Bereavement Program will discuss the interrelation of attachment style and the experience of grief and bereavement in youth. There are different attachment styles in youth, each contributing protective and risk factors in the adaptation of grief. Alice will share about ways to leverage the therapeutic benefits of each attachment style in the context of grief support for youth.

Nancy Dorrier

Nancy Dorrier, Writer, Mentor and Consultant
Co-Founder and Past President of Dorrier Underwood

Tapping the Well of Inner Wisdom

Grief counselors spend much of their time outwardly focused, creating a space where others feel safe sharing their pain. In this session, we introduce a writing practice that offers a powerful tool for processing grief. The practice uncovers untold stories and teaches a way of listening that gives participants the experience of being known and loved, exactly the way they are.

Speaker: Samiira Mohamed, MSN

The history of grief support, like so many services, is rooted in deep systemic biases. Beginning with Freud’s claims that we need to talk about grief with therapists and Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief, our early cultural understanding of what it means to grieve and cope with grief came from observations of white, middle-class, older adults.

Most of the grief research in the early years, and even now, overly represents straight, cis, white people rather than being inclusive of other races and ethnicities and sex and gender identities. That means in the last 40 years, our normative ideas about grief and grief support services emerged across the country based almost exclusively on that foundation. 

Grief support should address various types of loss, not just death loss. Because, despite extensive research on non-death losses, many grief support programs are limited exclusively to bereavement-related grief (grief after a death). They typically don’t offer services for those grieving chronic and ambiguous losses. Non-death, chronic, and ambiguous losses often disproportionality impact communities of color—and yet the support for these types of grief are absent in the communities that need them most.

There is a need for more research and more grief programs and services. But, as we work on those issues as a grief support community, one small thing that we can all do right now is seek out more information and voices that represent grief experiences outside of our own. This is important for all of us, and it is especially important for grief professionals.

Statistics also show that people of color are disproportionately affected by health disparities, including the COVID-19 pandemic, homicide, and gun violence. And while many of us can relate to our grief being disregarded, for Black youth and youth with marginalized identities, grief not only goes unacknowledged, but is often penalized. The result is a concept Dr. Tashel Bordere has identified as suffocated grief, which is rooted in systems of oppression and discrimination.

Speaker: Alexandra Wyman, MS, OTR

Grieving is a tumultuous journey that is unpredictable and can be lifelong. It is hard enough as adults to work through our own grieving process, let alone supporting our children through their own process. To effectively help our children through their grieving process, we first need to address our own grief. This presentation will walk participants through how to work on healing our own core limiting beliefs, messages and projections about how life is “supposed” to go, what a successful life looks like and how we are “supposed” to be as human beings. Children mimic and look to us to guide them throughout life. When we as adults start healing our limiting beliefs and stepping into our purpose,  then we are able to teach and guide our children how to do the same in order to work through their grief. This is especially important for behavioral health professionals to provide tools to the adults, children and families they work with in order to embrace their healing journey. This also offers an opportunity for professionals to work through their own experiences that have impacted them to decrease bias and judgment with those they work.

Speaker: Kiri Meyer, MS, LPC, NCC, RYT-200

Headaches, stomach aches, and grief brain – these are just some of the effects we can see in a grieving body that may seem unrelated to grief on the surface. Our society focuses mainly on the emotional experience of grief, but grief is truly a holistic experience. In this presentation, we will focus on how grief can show up in individual’s bodies in sneaky ways we may not expect and how we can help children and their caregivers attend to these as they arise. We will address a variety of outlets to help children normalize their experience, express themselves through these times, and release some of these “grief side effects” that can physically manifest in a grieving body. When we are able to help children listen to the cues their bodies are giving them, we are able to more effectively help support them and get their needs met.

Speakers: Jim Cubbage; Karen Kirsch, MA

What creates a healing space? Through interactive experiences, reflection, storytelling and question answering you will learn what Wild Grief has discovered and how to incorporate our learning in the programs you run. We are organizing our knowledge within the realms of self, of community and nature. What we have learned overall as well as in this approach can inform changes in your programs and insight in your participants. Wild Grief supports grieving families by facilitating peer support in nature through a variety of programs.

Speaker: Charlene Ray, MSW, LICSW

This presentation is for individuals, families or communities that support children and adolescents who are bereaved by suicide. It is also designed for anyone wanting to learn how to support a loved one or friend who is bereaved by suicide. This presentation will shine light on concepts rarely discussed in our culture:
• Are your experiences ‘normal’?
• Will you find joy again?
• What does useful support for a suicide loss survivor look like?

Speaker: Francesca Lynn Arnoldy, Author, Researcher

We make sense of ourselves, our changing world, and any losses we endure by storying our experiences. In this presentation, we will discuss the Vermont Conversation Lab’s “StoryListening Project” and its application to preparing children for loss and supporting bereaved young people.
Different—yet complementary to—some clinical approaches, StoryListening grief support does not include medical advising or cognitive restructuring, nor does it involve providing solutions, arguments, agreements, or false assurances. During this presentation, we will cover topics including: (1) adopting a stance of engaged neutrality, non-agenda, and acceptance, (2) validating through active, attentive listening, (3) respecting cultures, beliefs, and perspectives, (4) cultivating a non-anxious presence, (5) allowing and welcoming silence, (6) normalizing universal suffering, (7) and remaining calm and non-directive, yet also resourceful—beneficial practices for personal and professional uses alike.

Speakers: Jen McCormick, LICSW; Samiira Mohamed, MSN; Alice Ryan, LICSW; Makenzie Muilenburg, MS, LMHC, NCC; Courtney McGrue, LICSW

This presentation is designed to examine the impacts of traumatic loss for youth in different stages of development from infant to young adulthood. We will explore therapeutic techniques for each stage of development to help all ages of youth process traumatic loss.

Speaker: Jen McCormick, LICSW

This presentation is designed to explore the concept of traumatic grief and its impact on kids and teens. We will look at the developmental stages of kids/teens through the lens of grief and share clinical strategies to support kids and teens in the aftermath of a traumatic loss.

Speakers: Makenzie Muilenburg, MS, LMHC, NCC; Courtney McGrue, LICSW

In this presentation participants will learn about the efficacy of group-based grief support in schools as evidenced by researched backed outcomes. Additionally, participants will learn how to appropriately recruit students, assess appropriateness for the group, and obtain consent for participation. Presenters will share skills, tips, and considerations for facilitating groups. Finally, participants will be provided resources for how to facilitate a grief group in K-12 schools.

Continuing Education Credits Available

The Institute for Continuing Education and Safe Crossings Foundation are cosponsors of this program. This co-sponsorship has been approved by NBCC.  The Institute for Continuing Education is an NBCC approved continuing education provider, ACEP Provider No. 5643. The Institute for Continuing Education solely is responsible for this program, including the awarding of NBCC credit.

The Institute for Continuing Education is an approved provider of continuing education in nursing by the California Board of Nursing, Provider CEP 12646.  Nurses are responsible for checking with their state board to determine if credit issued through an approved provider of the CA Board of Nursing is acceptable by their state board.

The Institute for Continuing Education is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. The Institute for Continuing Education maintains responsibility for this program and its content.  

This program has been approved for 9 social work continuing education hours for re-licensure, in accordance with 258 CMR, NASW-MA Chapter of CE Approving Program. Authorization No. D-81347.

Skills Level:   Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced.  Participants are urged to review the session descriptions to determine appropriateness for professional and personal needs.

Non-Credit EventsCE credit is not offered for registration, board meetings, meal functions, social events, and breaks.

Completed CE Materials:  Please prepare your professional license information to include on CE application materials. CE packets will be completed online.

NOTE: To receive continuing education credit, applicants must complete all CE materials, sign in/out at designated locations, and submit an evaluation form for the sessions attended. 

NOTE: It is the responsibility of the attendee to determine if CE credit offered by The Institute for Continuing Education meets the regulations of their state licensing/certification board, including the Ethics Workshops scheduled.

NOTE: Ethics credit is not offered for any workshop sessions

NOTE: Clock hours proposal is pending approval by PSESD

Goals for Conference

• Provide education on best practices through the exchange of timely clinical information, programs, advances in research, and successful ideas for children’s grief support programming
• Provide practical tools and skills to use when supporting grieving children
• Create a space for sharing, connecting, and learning from each other and diverse perspectives
• Promote networking and support among colleagues

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