The Goshen College Social Work department and Ryan’s Place collaborated to host the 15th annual Grief Seminar this past Friday. The theme for the seminar was “All Life Long: Empowerment through the Grief Journey.”

Andy McNiel, the featured speaker, has served in multiple leadership nonprofit and bereavement support settings throughout his career.

McNiel has provided executive leadership for the National Alliance for Grieving Children, the Amelia Center at Children’s of Alabama and Treasure Coast Hospice in South Florida. He is the co-author of “Understanding and Supporting Bereaved Children: A Practical Guide for Professionals.” He has helped as a trainer for the Boys and Girls Club of America and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Emily Stoltzfus, a junior, was one of the several social work students who attended the seminar in hopes to understand and learn life lessons about their future careers. This seminar covered the importance of social work and how the workers’ actions can help future clients deal with obstacles.

Topics covered in the seminar include “Types of Death and the Impact on Bereavement,” “Supporting Communities after Tragedy” and “Techniques and Approaches to Providing Grief Support Across the Lifespan.”

To aid in understanding the role of the professional in grief support, Ryan’s Place provided exercises and resources for social workers and other organizations to use with their clients.

Goshen College social work students who attended the seminar were exposed to important lessons to carry with them throughout their job experiences. For example, the speakers emphasized the relationships between the client and the person who died to show how to react to different situations.

Another issue discussed is when a client doesn’t know how to deal with the loss of a loved one. Some individuals do not know how they grieve; however, they are still learning the permanence in death that follows that. This is where a social worker would step in and help with the situation.

“It is not a social worker’s job to solve the problem, but it is important to learn how to create a better space for problem solving,” Stoltzfus said. “It is not a social worker’s job to take a person’s grief away; however, it is our job to provide a safe space for them to sort through and examine the grief.”