Dozens of teens from across Mississippi attend grief retreat

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Teenagers from across the state attended the third annual Grief Retreat at Mississippi School of the Arts on April 1.

The one-day retreat was provided at no cost for high school students who have experienced loss, whether loss of life or loss of family through separation or absence, according to MSA counselor, Dr. Harlie Blauw.

“Sixty teenagers from 16 different schools across Mississippi attended and were able to experience a community of hope and healing,” Blauw said. “Our goal was for these teens to leave empowered, strengthened and encouraged.”

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Various art activities were offered to the students, including woodburning, mural painting, watercolor on canvas, creative writing, intuitive mixed media and clay working.

Thirty-six live butterflies were released to honor and recognize the students’ losses. The day concluded with horse riding on campus.

“The activities aimed to help students reinvest in life after loss together as a community of grievers,” said Blauw. “Teens were able to experience the freedom to feel without judgment, to be as expressive or as quiet as they chose, and for their grief to be acknowledged as important and worthy of recognition.”

Several MSA and local artists participated, leading the students in various arts: Renee Cotton and Lona Bennett with clay; Brandy Johnson with intuitive mixed media; Tobie Lambert with creative writing; Cristi Wolfe with watercolor on canvas; Kayla Walker with woodburning; and Derek Covington Smith as designer and artist for the mural.

Joining Blauw as small group leaders were Amber Bowman, Anne-Houston Craig, Rebecca Teasley, Amber Martin, Seaira Kowalski, Deborah Bowman and Roshanda Robertson. Amy Fairchild, Stacey Lambert, Kerronique Newell and John Kelly Shelburne worked as general volunteers.