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N.D. sister designs grief pins to raise awareness, cope with loss

Kaitlin Bohlander has designed grief pins for people to wear as a way to show their sorrow in an indirect way. Bohlander said she doesn't want the pins to attract attention or questions, but to promote patience and compassion for those dealing with a loss. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK—A Bismarck resident is aiming to promote patience and compassion for those grieving the death of a loved one by designing and dispersing button pins to wear during moments of fragility.

Kaitlin Bohlander came up with the grief pin project in July after her 20-year-old brother, Drew, was killed in a traffic accident.

"Drew was funny and always willing to help other people. He brought so much light to our lives," she said. "Our family was blessed to have him for those 20 years."

After her brother died, Bohlander said there were moments when she felt "frazzled" and "scatterbrained" in the midst of doing everyday things.

She recalls standing at the checkout to purchase photos for Drew's service and being unable to locate her debit card to pay.

"In that moment, I thought it would be nice to have a pin to wear to recognize that you're going through a difficult time," Bohlander said. "The pin is not intended to invite questions or draw attention to the person wearing it but, simply, to promote patience and compassion to that person."

When designing the grief pins, Bohlander said her goal was to keep them as simple as possible.

"Simple and consistent. I tried to think of the simplest and most distinct way to get the message across," she said. "And I want them to be universally recognized."

Bohlander works as a financial representative at Thrivent Financial, which allowed her to apply for a Thrivent Action Team grant to help fund the project. Otherwise, the money for the pins comes out of her own pocket.

"I recently received a donation from a member of the grief support group I attend," she said. "So I guess you could say it's my project, but supported by other groups of people."

Bohlander has 250 pins to disperse, at no charge, to people in need.

"I hope the pins provide a way for people in the wake of loss to feel more comfortable in society after losing someone close to them," she said. "We never know what other people are going through. Hopefully, the pins serve as a reminder to be kind."

Recipients can keep their pin forever, share it with someone in need or return the pin to Bohlander if they feel they no longer need it.

The ultimate goal is to have grief pins readily available at local churches and funeral homes, to reach as many people as possible.

"Grief is not linear. It feels different to have lost Drew at the age of 20, but I feel like he's with me in other ways," Bohlander said. "It feels good to do anything positive that brings insight into our situation."

Sharing in the loss of Drew are parents Craig and Michelle and siblings Chase, Brandon and Leesa.

If you are in need of a grief pin, or know someone who is, call 701-214-3922.