Moving Past Grief and Loss

Theda New Breast, Native Wellness Institute Facilitator leads members of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in a dialogue about culturally relevant ways to move through grief and loss to wellness.

BY: Michelle Simon

Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation tribal members and staff recently participated in a 3-day workshop, “Moving Past Grief and Loss” provided by Native Wellness Institute facilitator Theda New Breast. In conjunction, Native Chef Jason Champagne provided healthy meals and food preparation education throughout the event.

Most individuals will experience grief and loss through the course of living, it might stem from the loss of a loved one, the experience of poverty, or through discrimination, and the experience can be traumatic. The Prairie Band Potawatomi have long been subject to acts such as forced moves, adverse political policies and boarding schools which have disrupted traditional ways of life, creating collective historical trauma and intergenerational trauma legacies affecting multiple generations of families.

According to SAMHSA (US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), “Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being.” Each person experiences trauma differently, however, people who experience repeated, chronic or multiple traumas are more likely to have more pronounced symptoms that include substance abuse, increased mental health issues, sleep disorders and physical health conditions.

The PBPN Social Services Advisory Board sponsored the workshop allowing individual tribal members and service providers in the community to become trauma-informed and learn healthy ways to manage grief and loss. Providing education to service providers in the community, such as the Social Service staff, provides a greater understanding of clients’ behavior and in turn allows staff to deliver better service, which ultimately leads to a healthier community.

Over the course of the 3-day workshop held on October 1, through October 3, 2019, participants discussed the connection between trauma and grief, identified the grief stages and culturally appropriate responses, engaged in team and trust-building exercises and learned tools for moving through grief to healing.

The training was facilitated by Theda New Breast (Montana Blackfeet) a master trainer/facilitator and founding member of the Native Wellness Institute. New Breast is a leading authority on Indigenous Cultural Resilience and has worked with over 500 tribes in 34 years on the subjects of proactive healing from historical trauma, post-traumatic growth, mental health healing and sobriety/recovery/adult child of an alcoholic.

In addition, Jason Champagne, of Native Chef, LLC was on-site providing culturally tailored, healthy breakfast and lunch options during the workshop. Champagne shared with participants the ingredients and preparation techniques and tips for the provided meals.


The Native Chef, Jason Champagne, shares his journey to healthy eating habits with workshop participants before sharing healthy food preparation techniques.


Helen Sumner (PBPN), Barb Simon (Kickapoo) and Mary Young (PBPN) dish up pasta, bison meatballs, and freshly made spaghetti sauce prepared by Jason Champagne.