(UVALDE, Texas) — In the 13 months after the Uvalde elementary school mass shooting, resources from across the state flowed into the small Texas town, including the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.
Now, the bereavement center is permanently establishing its roots in Uvalde, recognizing the irreversible impact loss can have on children.
“Play is the language of children,” Dr. Marian Sokol, CEO of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas, told ABC News. “Sometimes they can’t find the words, but they can create the words.”
The nonprofit from San Antonio, Texas serves children and families grieving the death of a loved one, focusing on therapy through expressive arts.
The center has been in four temporary locations throughout the city, including a space from St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, which is now the lender of their permanent building. Rev. Michael Marsh of St. Philip’s told ABC News that the parish immediately wanted to help the community in a tangible way after the shooting.
“I think about the building, what it used to look like and what it looks like now, and itself is a symbol of hope and transformation,” Marsh told ABC News.
“In some ways, the grief will never go away, we won’t get over it but through it,” said Marsh. “There will be a time that life will get larger.”
The permanent space also includes enhanced security measures in its construction, including ballistic glass and automatic locks on the doors. Sokol hopes to help reduce the high levels of anxiety her team sees in their clients and bring them methods to cope.
The center will include private counseling offices, rooms for art therapy and an outdoor space.
The Children’s Bereavement Center currently has two full-time counselors and three interns, serving roughly 100 children, as they continue to search for additional counselors to hire.
“So much of what we’re seeing now is really trauma,” said Sokol. “Sometimes it takes years to get through the trauma. But being able to put that into a positive train of thought in terms of things that they can do in life to honor and respect and show that the continued love and the continued memorializing of the children.”
All services are provided at no cost to families. The cost for interior structure and design is compensated through donations by several communities in the greater San Antonio neighborhoods.
A dedication ceremony for the new facility was hosted on June 29.
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