We designate days as "special" and ritualize them because they mean something to us historically, religiously, or culturally. They are often days that intend to preserve memory or tradition. We have Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Day and Labor Day. There are days we have preserved as part of our cultural heritage and there are days where causes seek national attention like Children's Grief Awareness Day.
Our day, Children's Grieve Awareness Day, is a day we wish to propel into the mainstream. It is a day with great ambition and a day filled with big heroes in little bodies—kids. Children wear blue and draw attention to themselves, as if to say remember me and remember my story—I am not alone. It is a day in which many families, programs, and caring adults draw awareness to a life experience in which our culture is not meaningfully engaged, especially in our post-industrial and medically advanced world. It is also a day of solidarity.
In our own ways, we have collectively chosen to remind our communities that children grieve. We help our communities remember just a week before Thanksgiving. The placement of this day is a real cultural paradox. We live in a time filled with conversations and jargon about networking, connections, and community building, yet these are also times filled with disconnect, isolation, and a yearning for meaning.
Children's Grief Awareness Day occurs during a season of thanksgiving, moments before we embark on a season of consumerism. And so, in some ways, our day is a call for gratitude and a reminder of what is most real and good in life—the power of human connection and the grief that accompanies the breaking of those bonds. When we remind the world about the challenges children face each day, hopefully those who hear are moved to feeling grateful for those meaningful relationships in their lives, and hopefully they are more open to being called to action by becoming more competent about the needs of children and families.
Children's Grief Awareness Day is certainly about reminding people that children grieve, but we should not forget that it is also a call to action and gratitude. It is a call for our culture and communities to make meaningful paradigm shifts, moving from a place of being indifferent and disempowered to communities that are supportive and informed. And in that spirit, we are making great progress.
As an alliance, we continue to grow and engage more professional groups and communities. We are reaching more underserved communities thanks to the support of the Grief Reach grant program sponsored by New York Life Foundation. We are finding common words, together, to collectively talk about this issue and address injustices that children, teens, and families face after the death of a significant person. We are far from reaching every child, far from a changed world, and far from seeing our field and shared work fizzle into irrelevance. Instead, we remain on the verge of national awareness, on the verge of changing indifference, and always on the verge of ensuring that every child gets the support they need and deserve when they experience grief. The road ahead may be long, but we are on it together, and isn't it good that we are not alone.
We remain on the verge. And this week, we are on the verge of a better tomorrow as we continue to raise awareness.
Joseph Primo, MDiv
Chief Executive Officer
Good Grief, Morristown, NJ & Princeton, NJ
When we are faced with a crisis we tend to use skills that we never knew we had in our repertoire of behaviors. Somehow, we "rise to the occasion" and deal with the situation as best we can. Death is probably the most difficult crisis we will have to face in our lives. It is certainly one of the most confusing and difficult situations for children. Loss renders us helpless, we lose control, and we cannot make the situation better by bringing back the person who has died. When our children experience a loss we grieve for the pain they must endure as well. While there are certain things we can do to help children work through and process their grief, there are also some guidelines to help all of us manage a crisis.
*Recognize and admit what has happened...
*Include your children in what is happening and the feelings surrounding the event...
*Accept the help and support of others, they would want your friendship and caring during their time of need...
*Try to be flexible about demands on yourself and your children, difficult times call for modifying your standards...
*When approaching the problem at hand, break it down into small manageable parts, and take each step as it `````comes...
*Don't expect too much of yourselves or your children at times of crisis, non-essentials can be delayed...
*Try to express your own feelings to your child in a caring, non-burdening way...
*Avoid making hasty decisions or major changes in your life too soon, both you and your child need the stability of
old familiarities, time can alter your feelings...
*While the current situation may be painful remember that the passage of time will help everyone get used to new roles and situations...
*Try to remain hopeful and patient, working one's way out of crisis, and grieving in particular, takes time...
*Consider seeking professional help if, after a reasonable period of time, your own efforts seem inadequate.
Excerpted from Gaffney, D. The Seasons of Grief, Helping Children Grow Through Loss
“After my brother died, life was so hard to live. There were days that I sat there and I didn’t think I could live anymore without my brother. Whenever a birthday, holiday or special occasion would come along, I would always end up shedding at least a few tears. Nothing was the same without my brother.” - Jennifer, 16
Since it is estimated that approximately one out of 20 children in the United States will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18, childhood grief is a widespread issue that can have a lifelong impact on the affected child's emotional well-being. In fact, according to a 2014 study that surveyed more than 27,000 people, the unexpected death of a loved one is the most frequently reported traumatic event in one's life. With the help of caring adults most bereaved children not only survive but thrive after the death of a parent. However, for those who are in the minority, approximately one out of 10, their emotional well-being may be significantly affected and they can benefit from additional support and professional help.
“The families here have all lost someone that they love. They are so understanding and they know what it’s like. I feel that it is easier to talk to someone that I can relate to than it is to talk to somebody that has never experienced the feelings and emotional states that I have.” -Jennifer, 16
Children, especially adolescents have a tendency to put up a wall. It's almost as if the feeling of immortality that most teens lean toward, clashes with the death they've observed. Engaging these conversations can be made very difficult, but provides necessary coping skills for adulthood.
Our spring sessions will begin in January, if you or someone you know would benefit from our programs, please visit us at http://www.hopeandhealingplace.org/support-groups.html .
It is no secret that the teenage years prove to be a difficult time for both parents and teens. Through the efforts of the Jack Duncan Rhodes program, parents, educators, and even teens themselves continually ask us for a program to help navigate the complex and tumultuous world of being a teenager.
After much research, planning, and discussion about the best way to respond to this growing request, The Hope & Healing Place will begin a new support group designed specifically for teens called RE-LATE. In conjunction with our Jack Duncan Rhodes Teen Suicide Prevention Program we hope to promote emotional well-being, healthy coping strategies, and provide a place to make connections with other teens navigating the same journey of being a teenager. RE-LATE offers teens a supportive atmosphere with the only people in the world who truly understand the struggles of being a teen…other teens. Here is the support group information you need to know:
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