Arriving with Grief, Leaving with Hope: St. Joseph’s Remembers Lost Loved Ones

With hope in their hearts, students remembered lost loved ones with memorial lanterns.

The sun was not yet awake as a group of high school girls and houseparents from St. Joseph’s Indian School made their way to the Missouri River’s edge. The sky was a dark navy, matching the blue of the waves slapping the pier. As the vehicle’s headlights clicked off, darkness of the early morning surrounded them.

In their hearts, they carried with them loss and sadness. In their hands, they carried memorial lanterns.

“The girls in our home have experienced a lot of grief and loss this year. Between COVID and the suicide rates among Native American population, there is not one student in our home who isn’t affected,” said Tia and David, houseparents at St. Joseph’s. “We are trying to help the girls learn to move through grief in healthy ways.”

Indigenous Americans have the highest actual COVID-19 mortality rates nationwide, and historically, the suicide rate for Native American residents of South Dakota is estimated to be 2.5 times higher than other populations, according to the department of health.

Together, both circumstances have brought a lot of hardship and heartache. However, working through this grief is at the forefront.

The girls had written prayers, notes, and special memories on their lanterns. The morning proved to be particularly cold for October, and the wind whipped suddenly. The girls and houseparents had to work together and help each other light the lanterns.

“We had to shield each girl from the breeze as she got her lantern ready,” said Tia and David. “It was a lesson about how we are dependent on each other when we are vulnerable.”

After releasing the glowing lanterns, the group quietly watched the sunrise and shared their favorite memories of the loved ones they have lost.

“We talked about how the best way to honor them is to carry their love and our memories of them forward. To live a healthy, happy life that they would make them proud.”

They had arrived holding grief and a lantern, but they left holding each other with hope binding them together. It was a beautiful morning.

To learn more about St. Joseph’s Indian School, visit

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

2 thoughts on “Arriving with Grief, Leaving with Hope: St. Joseph’s Remembers Lost Loved Ones”

  1. God Bless you in your grief, and there is always hope, just don’t stop looking for it. I had a daughter who was into drugs and very addicted, she is now doing well, she went through hell to get there, God is always there just turn to him, don’t be afraid to talk to him and than listen, you will get an answer, I have done it many times.
    Stay strong, love each other, care for each other and pray for each other.
    God Bless you in your hope, he is with you. Tell me what you call God, they are all one.

  2. You do an amazing job of supporting your children I am honored to support such a safe and caring environment As a mental health therapist the way you recognize and validate their grief will help them throughout their lifetime

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