Turning Tragedy into Healing

Love and support can grow hope from tragedy. This is the central pillar for Danny Mize’s work, and his life.
What started out as severe loss within Mize’s own family, has since evolved into a testimony to healing. His lifelong career has helped many others cope with grief – from the Oklahoma City Bombing, to the May 3rd tornadoes, and even 9/11.

“We all have a need to process the things in our life that are unusual, especially crisis and trauma events, such as a death of a family member or friend,” says Mize.

The trauma of grief struck Mize early in life. His younger brother died of cancer, followed by the deaths of his grandparents, an older brother to a motorcycle accident, and then his father passed away, also to cancer.  

“Those personal losses drove me to first of all, try and understand what was going on with me,” he says. Mize began studying and reading about grief management in order to understand how to cope.  After graduating with a Master of Arts in Religion from Pepperdine University, he spent many years working in church ministry and education.

For nearly 15 years, Mize lead seminars and support groups to help others along the same difficult path of grief he once traveled. On April 19, 1995 – everything changed.

“That event obviously changed my life and the lives of so many in the Oklahoma City area,” he says. After the Oklahoma City Bombing, Mize was led to Portland where he learned about the Dougy Center, the first family grief center in the country.

“I went there and studied what they were doing and thought; well somebody in Oklahoma City should do that,” he says.  It turns out, that somebody was Mize.

With training from the Dougy Center, a location procured from the Edmond Church of Christ, extensive remodeling, and many volunteers, The Kids’ Place opened in Edmond as a non-profit public grief support organization in October of 1996.

Though the center has developed a successful curriculum, Mize defines the program not as a class or a counseling center, but as a support group. “It gives those who are grieving an opportunity to learn from each other,” he says.

One of the most important aspects of the program is that it is family based. Mize explains that grief affects an entire family, but in different ways. Therefore, the system is set up to accommodate many different age groups at the same time, separately addressing their needs.

Another key to the program’s success is that it has always been a public center so there’s a mixture of families, grief, and trauma-related needs in every session.

The first few years following the bombing, about 25 percent of the groups were directly related to the Murrah Building attack. Mize explains that it proved beneficial for those dealing with that particular loss to be a part of a mixed loss group. They were able to learn from others who were at different places in their grieving.

What Mize learned through this experience allowed him to be a part of helping others affected by disasters, such as the May 3rd tornadoes as well as the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In 2004, the financial burden to run The Kids’ Place of Edmond necessitated a transition to have it housed under the umbrella of the Edmond Church of Christ. With the center remaining fully functioning and Mize still involved in some of its seminars, he was able to take what he had developed to other parts of the country before ending up in Amarillo, Texas, working as coordinator of bereavement and spiritual care for Hospice Care of the Southwest.

“I’m continuing to learn how to use the skills and the knowledge gained through the years, and at The Kids’ Place, here in Amarillo,” says Mize.

He says his biggest reward is seeing people grow. Mize observes that they often come to the group reluctant; yet from the tools and support they receive, each one develops the ability to handle the grief on their own.
With modesty, he states, “It’s not about us, it’s about them… watching the progress in people as they experience the healing.” Though to everyone around him, it is beautifully clear the impact started with him. Mize took a series of personal losses and motivated others to help define grief, support families, and in turn – grow hope from tragedy.

The Kids’ Place will be beginning a new term on September 14, 2010. Their program will have groups that meet the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. For more information, contact Jen Foster at 844-KIDS or visit www.edmondkids.org

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