Zionsville Community High School twins help children deal with grief


By Mark Ambrogi

Zionsville Community High School juniors Mary Slaughter and Rebecca “Beki” Slaughter understand the grief process.

CIZ COM 0404 Brookes Place
Beki, left, and Mary Slaughter are volunteers at Brooke’s Place. (Submitted photo)

The 17-year-old twins’ biological father, Dan Slaughter, died suddenly from aortic dissection in 2001 when they were 1 year old. Then their stepfather, Craig Howell, died from colon cancer in 2008.

The twins went to Brooke’s Place when they were 3 years old with two older sisters (Lindsey 24, Anna 20) to be counseled on their grief over losing their father. Mary and Beki went back when their stepfather died. Their mother, Paige Slaughter, attended to get guidance on dealing with her children’s grief and to share strategies with other families.

Now, Mary and Beki are volunteers at Brooke’s Place, an Indianapolis program that helps children deal with the grief of losing a loved one, a parent, sibling or grandparent.

“Since November, we’ve worked as grief facilitators working with about 10 6- to 9-year-olds,” Beki said. “You have a designated group and it is the same kids each time to help them work with their grief.”

Mary works with 3- to 5-year-olds.

Beki said there are activities to help them work through the grief and get them to talk about it.

“We really work on letting them express their grief and letting it out,” Beki said.

Mary said they attended three different training sessions. One of the training sessions was a program at a mortuary to see how the facilitators interact.

“We learn the four tools,” Mary said. “You reflect a lot on what they say because you don’t want to force your words into their grief process.”

Beki said another tool is “I wonder” statements such “I wonder how you feel” or “I wonder how that experience felt to you.”

The third tool is meta-level, which is a degree of understanding.

“The fourth tool is rule breaks, which is a way of keeping them protected, knowing they can share their grief in a safe environment,” Beki said.

Brooke’s Place sees clients from 3-year-olds to young adults.

Beki said the children open up more because they can share their experience of losing their father, stepfather and grandfather, Steve Slaughter, who died last year.

“I feel like we’ve come full-circle,” Beki said of helping other children.

For more, visit brookesplace.org.