MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Losing a loved one can be overwhelming, but it can be even more so if you’re high school dealing with imminent loss of your mother.
“I don’t think I knew what the word hope meant until they told me there was no hope for my mom,” said Jackson Ribler.
Ribler said at the time what he needed the most, to talk with someone about his mother who died last year of cancer, wasn’t easy to find.
“I lost my mother in 2015. Me and my father, we had relatives, and we have great friends who support us through everything, but we were looking for perspective. For people to go to that understood grief and what it’s like to lose a family member, and it was nice to be around other people that understood what it was like,” said Ribler.
When Ribler first lost his mother Rebecca, he wouldn’t talk to anyone about it. However, earlier this year he was able to get on stage and talk about it at Relay for Life event.
Ribler and his father credit his ability to talk about the fight against cancer to the mentoring and support he received at the Children’s Bereavement Center, where he goes once a week to find comfort in peers who know first hands the grief and loss he experiences every day.
“The first thing we do is, we all sit down in a, it’s kind of like circle setting, so our facilitators ask a question, open-ended to the group. Everyone goes around and introduces themselves,” said Ribler. “The question would be like, ‘If you had a five-minute phone call with the person you lost just now, what would you guys talk about.’ Or it might be something like, ‘Thanksgiving is coming up, tell us about the time you had with the person you lost during Thanksgiving’.”
One of his biggest supporters lives with the same pain. Brett Dachs is a teen group mentor at the center. She lost her mother to cancer when she was 16-years-old.
“It was a place for me to come where we all kind of knew how each other felt. You don’t necessarily get that with your friends, your everyday friends or even your extended family,” said Dachs. “I had lost my mom. So other people who had lost their mom, or their dad, or their close sibling, so it was just a place where you could feel like you could relate to people without even really having to try or do anything, or even if you didn’t really talk about it that day, you knew you were all there for the same purpose, and it was just a comfort.”
Dachs decided to give back and try to comfort others – like Ribler.
“This is the most perfect thing for me to do and I love it. I come every other week as a facilitator and I get so much out of it, even 14 years after my mom’s death, I still get something out of it every time. Being on the other end and doing what I can to help others, is a newer experience,” said Dachs.
“It really gives me a lot of hope, knowing that there is life after loss, that there is so much to look forward to, and I know that Brett has an amazing future ahead of her, and I know so do I, and it’s been very reassuring,” said Ribler.
Dachs admits she doesn’t pretend to have all the answers but she does know how to listen and be there to offer support and let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“You will be okay, you will come out the other side. You’re going to have bad days, but you’re going to have so many more good days than bad, and you’ve just got to keep going with it,” Dachs lets them know. “I’m sure whoever that person was that you lost, I’m sure they’re so proud of you and would just want you to do the best you can.”
Ribler said over the last year, with Dachs help and hearing the stories of other who understand his heartache, he’s been able to get his life back on track, pull up his grades and make plans for college.
“I know that I don’t have to be down right now, and I know that even if I am, it’s okay. I know that mom would want me to be happy, and I know that in the future I don’t have to be down,” he said.
The Children’s Bereavement Center is a place where anyone, of any age, who has lost someone can go to find support or simply sit and listen. It’s free and facilitated by volunteers, like Dachs, who are always looking for more help.