Caring for the Niche:
Tu Nidito’s Young Adult Bereavement Support Group
This is Serena Sahajian. In 2013, Serena’s mother died after fighting brain cancer for 9 months. A film student at the time and in the wake of her grief, she sought services at the University of Arizona’s Counseling and Psych Services center (CAPS). Her therapist referred her to Tu Nidito’s Young Adult Bereavement Support Group. With much hesitation, Serena called Tu Nidito and, for the first time, told a complete stranger that her mother died. She recalls being received with gentleness and warmth. The Young Adult Bereavement Support Group is a safe space for young adults ages 18-29 to receive support, care, and comfort after experiencing the death of a loved one. It is a welcoming environment where young adults can share stories, engage and connect with others, learn healthy coping skills, and ultimately find hope and support through their grief journey. The group meets twice monthly near the University of Arizona campus. It was within this new community that Serena found the comfort and support she needed as she navigated the challenges of grief.
Years later, Serena decided it was time to give back to the community that had given so much to her. After considering her progress along her grief journey, she felt prepared to do so. Since then, Serena has gone from Tu Nidito volunteer, to part-time staff, to her current position as a full-time Support Specialist. Her role now includes the task of facilitating the Young Adult Bereavement Support Group. As fate would have it, Serena has come “full-circle,” guiding the group that she became a part of years prior.
Serena explains that young adults can become particularly lonely and isolated in their grief. “Bereaved young adults are a niche in our society who are all too easy to overlook; They’ve often moved away from home and have yet to form attachments in a new community,” she notes. Their support system may be weak and inadequate. Therefore, this particular support group fills a genuine need here in Tucson.
But, what if a young adult isn’t able to attend a formal support group? Those individuals are welcome to join us for Tu Nidito’s Gathering for The Grieving. Bereaved young adults can come have a casual meal or simply share space with fellow grievers. There will be no pressure to share explicitly about their grief at the event. This series will begin in the Summer of 2020 and occur quarterly.
Serena wants young adults who may consider joining the support group or attending a future Gathering to know that there is a space for them. They don’t have to be “okay,” and other people will understand that because they’re not okay either. The stigma surrounding the expression of grief in our culture is, in a word, exhausting. It’s tiresome to hold in your thoughts and to feel as if you can’t be open about what you’re experiencing. That is why this work is so essential. It’s the “profound moments” that keep Serena going; When someone shares their death loss with the group for the first time, or sheds tears in the company of understanding friends; When someone poses a fear that they face and everyone else nods in agreement, as if saying, “I feel that, too.” It is our hope here at Tu Nidito that the profound moments will continue, especially as we expand our reach into the community to ensure that no child, no family, and no young adult grieves alone.
For more information regarding the Young Adult Bereavement Support Group or the upcoming Gathering for The Grieving series, contact Serena at [email protected] or call (520) 322-9155.
Pictured above are family photos provided by Serena. In the first, Serena is pictured with her mother Julie, holding a small puppy together. The second is a photo of Julie looking out into the ocean, holding Serena’s brother in her arms when he was a baby.