CENTER FOR GRIEVING CHILDREN, TEENS & FAMILIES
Ryan’s Place is an independent grief support organization located in Goshen Indiana.
Since its inception in January 2002 Ryan’s place has served over 1400 individuals in their
programs. The organization currently has two paid staff persons, an executive director
and a part-time development director, and forty trained volunteer facilitators who work
directly with the children and their families. To date Ryan’s Place has served clients from
all socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds. The demographics of race includes
African American, Asian, Caucasian, Latino and bi-racial. Goshen is a town of
approximately 30,000 and is located in Elkhart County in Northern Indiana. Families from
nine different counties in the Northern Indiana/Southern Michigan area have used Ryan’s
Place services over the past eight years. Of the over 1400 clients who have received grief
support services at Ryan’s Place, 30% of the clients come from the Amish community.
The following are the programs offered by Ryan’s place Since August 2009:
Two regular grief support programs which meet every other week on Mondays
and Tuesdays in Goshen and Elkhart respectively.
An anticipatory grief support program which is specifically designed to assist
families that are facing the imminent death of a loved one.
A grief support group for teenagers who are residents of Bashor Children’s Home.
A home for children located in Goshen, Indiana
A two-semester grief support program at the Merit Leaning Center. The Center is
an alternative school in Goshen that services children from four surrounding school
districts. The group targets teens between the ages of 15-18
A two-semester grief group at Goshen Middle School for 7th grade girls.
Two one-semester grief support groups for students at Parkside Elementary in
In partnership with the Elkhart County Suicide Prevention Coalition, Ryan’s Place
formed a group for adults and teens that have had a family member die by
suicide. The group meets every other week at our Goshen facility.
Ryan’s Place formed a crisis response team that serves groups and families in the
immediate aftermath of a traumatic death. These services have been utilized by
the Elkhart Community School Corporation, Child Protective Services, and
The Ryan’s Place grief support programs are open to families to have experienced the
death of a loved one, no matter who the person is, or the cause of death.
Why do the Amish come to Ryan’s Place?
Since it opened Ryan’s Place has had two Amish facilitators volunteer to work with the
children who come for grief support. This couple, Daniel and Dora Miller, got involved as
a result of the untimely death of their teenage daughter, Linda Jean. Having gone outside
their community to get help through Compassionate Friends, Daniel and Dora decided to
go through the facilitator training for Ryan’s Place, and over the past eight years have
helped many children have gone through their group. Their presence at Ryan’s Place also
allowed other in the Amish community to feel comfortable and safe enough to take seek
support, and to take part in the programs.
Over the past eight years our relationship with the Amish has grown to one of trust and
mutual respect. Over the past number of years the Amish community has organized a
fund-raiser to help Ryan’s Place, and one Amish father gave a testimonial about Ryan’s
Place at one of our Gala’s.
Some of the things that we have done to help support grieving Amish families:
Conducted home visits after the death of a loved one. We always bring an Amish
person who has gone through our program with us when visiting an Amish home.
Give gas cards to help offset the high costs of hiring drivers to bring them to
Ryan’s Place – a deal was worked out with the drivers in advance to accept gas
cards as part payment
Attended Amish funerals
Serve supper at our programs – the Amish generally love to eat communally.
Train our facilitators to be culturally competent.
Always have a person who speaks Pennsylvania-Dutch working with the 3-5 year
old group – Amish children do not learn to speak English until they are five.
Every other session in the adult groups we break the men and women into two
different groups – in feedback they told us that they sometimes talk better when their
spouse is not there.
Amish Customs/Mourning Rituals
Some of the cultural mourning rituals for the Indiana Amish are as follows:
Simple wooden coffins are used.
The body of the deceased is kept at the home.
The funeral service is held at the deceased property if they have a large enough
Pallbearers dig the grave and mourners stay at the graveside until the body is
After the burial a meal is provided at the family home – family, neighbors and
friends help prepare the food.
Funerals tend to be very large and people will travel great distances to attend;
often hiring drivers to take them to funeral outs of state.
For many months after the funeral people visit the family, unannounced, usually
bringing food. Often the deceased family will not have to cook a meal or
purchase food for months after the death.
Amish write a lot of letters, poems and stories about the deceased.
Amish families will often have a place in their home where mementoes are kept.
Most Amish families will not have photographs of the deceased.
Many Amish families will not seek help outside of their community when loved ones
Although some of the Amish customs around death are similar to other ethnic/racial
groups, Amish culture emphasizes simplicity and community. Each Amish community keeps
its own set of written and/or unwritten guidelines that are called Ordnung that they use to
regulate their lives in devotion to God. These rules cover all aspect of Amish life; which
include what clothes they wear, church activities, work, and the social aspects of their lives.
The Ordnung also governs the way they mourn their dead.