Children grieve differently than adults, and that means the support they need when someone close to them dies, or even during major life events like the divorce of parents, is different, too.
“People often think their children are doing okay since kids are so resilient but they are often the ones who suffer in silence. If they know a parent or loved one is grieving they may not bring their feelings up because they don’t want to upset anyone,” says Jane Weiland, Hospice Huntsville’s program coordinator.
The fall session of the organization’s five-week, virtual grief support program for children is starting soon, and spaces are still available. The program has been running for nearly a decade and is completely free for elementary school-aged children in the community.
The weekly program is organized and led by facilitators who have specific training in grief and bereavement. They also have a background in education and social work.
“The ladies that run the group are so incredible and very passionate about supporting children,” says Weiland.
The sessions are activity and literature-based in order to create a welcoming and child-friendly environment. Activities are age-appropriate and may include mask-making to explore emotions the child may be feeling, talking about a shared memory and then drawing a picture that reminds them of it, and journaling.
“Children’s grief is quite a bit different than adults’,” said Weiland. “When the children are in our groups they are with peers so they are able to see they aren’t alone in their thoughts.”
In addition to their children’s program, Hospice also supports teens, who are typically referred by a school guidance counsellor but family members can contact Hospice directly. Instead of a group setting, the facilitator supports the teen one-to-one at the school, either during their lunch hour or a spare class. This service is more talking and support-based.
“In these times there have been many deaths,” said Weiland. “Whether that be COVID, suicide, cancer, or overdose, we know the importance of mental health in both children and adults. If kids have a neutral person and peers going through the same thing it is a very helpful resource to support them.”
The next session of the children’s program starts at the end of October. Participants meet virtually for one hour each week, after school. To register your child, contact Jane Weiland at 705-789-6878 ext. 200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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