- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (AP) - Statistics show that one in five children will experience the death of someone close to them by age 18.

With that in mind, The Healing Place has added a space specifically designed for teens dealing with grief.

The remodeled attic space has become a teen loft for support group meetings of children ages 13-19.

“We’ve been in need for a while for a space for this older age group of children to come and feel at home,” said Sarah Schmidlkofer, the teen program coordinator for the Healing Place.

“We have this great space for kids, but we didn’t have anything for the older children, where they could feel connected.”

The finishing touches are underway now for the newly equipped teen loft.

The focal wall of the room features bright art with scenes depicting grief and the healing that comes afterward.

Artist Lynn Weatherford and her teenage daughter, Gracey, painted the colorful scenes that already have been conversation topics among the teens who’ve seen them.

In one of the more graphic scenes, colors are coming from the mouth of a large colorful owl.

“The owl is throwing up because grief can cause that,” Weatherford said. “In another scene, a child is sleeping, another reaction to grief.”

Weatherford said her daughter, being a teen herself, helped add a sense of youth-focused reality with the art. Some space on the wall is being left blank for teen clients to fill.

Executive Director Melissa Bailey said the room has been a much-needed addition to the center.

“Our teen support groups meet four times a month,” Bailey said. “This is a time of giving those kids skills to cope with their grief, and the environment is so very important. The walls really emphasize the emotions that teens feel while dealing with grief.”

The $58,000 project began as a men’s ministry project of Woodmont Baptist Church led by Danny Clark.

Much of the major expense of the project was donated. Bill Strickland of Johnson Contractors donated the air conditioning units. Other materials and labor were also donated, and an anonymous donor provided $20,000 for the project.

“This was truly a community effort,” Bailey said. “This is a gift to our (center) and we, in turn, are sharing it with the community.”

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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