Grief 101

The Grief Center’s new education director will bring services to schools

News Starting in July, Mickey Kivitz will be The Grief Center's first Director of Education, and will be working with schools across the state. (Suzie Blake from The Grief Cente)

Throughout his career as a teacher at the independent Bosque School and the Voz Collegiate Preparatory charter schools in Albuquerque, Mickey Kivitz has become well-acquainted with students dealing with grief and other forms of trauma.

“No matter which school I had been at, kids who are dealing with grief and loss exhibit a lot of behaviors they need help resolving, and it doesn’t matter where they come from,” Kivitz tells SFR. “Grief and death—they’re very inclusive things that everybody has to deal with.”

Shortly after he began teaching nine years ago, he started to supplement his work in education as a volunteer for The Grief Center, an Albuquerque nonprofit that offers free support groups, workshops and other services for bereaved children, teens and adults. He primarily facilitated support groups for children and teens, and has served as a group leader at Camp Corazón, an overnight camp for kids receiving support from The Grief Center.

And now, he’s become the organization’s first-ever director of education—a statewide position where he is tasked to provide professional and community-level training to schools and respond to the needs of children experiencing grief, loss and other forms of trauma.

As an educator, Kivitz “has the professional knowledge and skills to engage youth and adults through audience-appropriate training on topics related to supporting grieving individuals,” Executive Director Jade Richardson Bock says in a June 17 statement announcing the new position. “He also has the compassion needed to present this information in a grief-informed manner.”

Kivitz says he hopes to connect with organizations similar to The Grief Center in his work as an educator for this. He notes that partnering with pre-existing organizations such as Gerard’s House—a social service center in Santa Fe that primarily serves grieving children and provides crisis response services to deaths affecting Santa Fe Public Schools students—will be important to understanding a community’s needs.

“I have a lot of research to do,” he says. “Three weeks ago I was just in a classroom with kids, but I’m really passionate about helping people understand grief and I want to have as many discussions as I can to normalize talking about death and end-of-life things.”

Kivitz notes that one of his goals in helping students stems from the state’s need to address the number of children in New Mexico who experience grief. According to the 2024 Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model report conducted by the JAG Institute, one in seven children in New Mexico (around 63,000 children) will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18—the second-highest in the nation.

“When it comes to a child’s education and their learning, they need support so that they can calm down, so that they can regulate, so that they are able to take on new challenges, because when grief and trauma happen, we don’t necessarily want to learn new things,” Kivitz says. “Helping someone get through that is one of my big goals, because if you don’t feel comfortable, if you don’t feel safe—you can’t learn. There’s nothing more discombobulating than losing a caregiver and feeling unsafe, feeling the demands of school and not being able to step up to it.”

In addition to training and presentations, Kivitz will also be tasked to support rural communities—from schools to other organizations that serve “grieving populations”—dealing with grief through responses that consider their diverse cultural needs.

“We’ll be able to do community outreach for kids in rural communities, schools and various organizations throughout the state, and provide training, give insight and help people who are not just in Albuquerque, but who are grieving and don’t yet have an opportunity to talk about their grief in a meaningful way,” Kivitz says.

Kivitz says he will be visiting as many schools and districts as he can, and that his primary goal in helping students is for “behaviors to be talked about, not managed.”

“With a lot of kids who may exhibit behaviors that are not appropriate for a learning environment, those kids may be dealing with unresolved trauma and unresolved feelings of loss, mourning and grief,” he says. “It’s a lot for adults, so, for kids it can be really overwhelming when your world is just shattered from the death of a loved one.”

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