Supporting children through grief
Hospice care offers wraparound support for all family members, regardless of their age. Support for children who are facing the death of a loved one is an important part of our bereavement care.
“Children are often called the forgotten mourners,” says bereavement counselor Isabel Stenzel. “A child’s life is forever changed by the death of a parent or close family member. We really do acknowledge grief in children and support the grief needs of the entire family.”
Our bereavement team has long provided individual counseling and play therapy for children who are grieving. Thanks to funding from our community, we can now provide extra support for young people who have lost a parent or primary caregiver.
A generous grant from Sandhya’s Touch, a foundation dedicated to improving quality of life for people with chronic or serious illness, funded supplies for several projects, including our new grief kits for children who are grieving a loss.
Isabel explains, “These kits allow us to reach and support so many more young people in ways that can impact their emotional health for years to come.”
“Grieving parents can be overwhelmed and find it difficult to get a child to bereavement counseling – especially in a pandemic world,” she says. “The idea is to offer a variety of age-appropriate resources that young people can explore – with a social worker or spiritual counselor, or on their own.”
Isabel convened a committee – including volunteer Wendy Parker, a retired school psychologist and counselor – to determine what would be most therapeutic for young grievers. Based on that research, the team developed and created kits with resources specifically designed to support ages 5-8, 9-12, and teens.
Our staff and volunteers have been getting special training on supporting grieving children. Jaymie Byron, LMFT, Director of Community Outreach at our community nonprofit partner Kara, led a special workshop on helping children cope with loss.
Jaymie emphasized that children act differently to grief, crisis, and trauma depending on their age and development. In addition, as they develop, children will re-experience the death in new ways and reintegrate the relationship that has been lost.
Understanding how children experience grief, and being better able to support them, is a key part of our ability to serve the entire family. As Linda Goldman wrote in her book, Life & Loss, “If a child is old enough to love, he or she is old enough to grieve.”