Children’s Grief Awareness Day

cgad fbcover

Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day and people all over the country are showing their support for children who have experienced the death of a loved one by wearing blue. Bo’s Place, my local grief support center, worked with a local high school origami group to create blue butterflies for volunteers and family members to wear in honor of the day.  I proudly pinned my butterfly to my sweater this morning and took the opportunity to tell my college of education students about how they could refer grieving families for free support.  Grief, and children’s grief in particular, isn’t an easy subject to talk about.  Unfortunately, this means that many community members don’t know what to say or do to help children after the death of a loved one. Children’s Grief Awareness Day gives us an opportunity to share helpful tips, bring awareness to local grief organizations, fund raise, and make our wish for hope and healing visible.  So, how can you help?

  1. Wear blue! Encourage your colleagues and friends to join you and let people know why blue is the color of the day.
  2. Spread the word through social media. Use Hope the butterfly (shown above) as your profile picture or cover art on your favorite social media site and use the hashtag #cgadhope.  You can download logos and images here.
  3. Find your local grief support center and learn how to refer families for services. Consider volunteering, donating, or helping them spread the word about their work in the community. You can search for a center in your area at the National Alliance for Grieving Children
  4. Share tips for supporting grieving children with your school, house of worship, or other organization that works with families.  You can use this flyer from Bo’s Place.
  5. Make blue butterfly crafts. You could start a wall of hope where people can write names or messages on blue paper butterflies.  Make and wear blue accessories. Wanna make a blue butterfly origami pin like the one from Bo’s Place?  Simply follow this instruction video and adhere with a safety pin.
  6. Learn more about Children’s Grief Awareness Day

Let’s spread a little hope as we approach the holiday season by supporting families that have experienced the death of a loved one.

 

 

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Grief Resources for Young Children

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I’ve mentioned in blog posts before that I’m a Playmaker.  Recently, a fellow Playmaker posted to the group Facebook page asking for resources and information to support a preschooler whose father died. I gathered some of my go-to resources to respond and thought that others might find them useful.  I’m posting them here so I’ll remember, and hopefully it will help others as well.  Please feel free to add suggestions for other materials in the comments, as it is great to have a variety of materials to serve different families and needs.

Sesame Street “When Families Grieve”

Sesame Workshop has created wonderful resources for caregivers of young children around grief.  They have created two guides, one for the general public and one for military families with accompanying facilitator guides.  These are available as a family packet that contains a parent resource guide, DVD with a story featuring Elmo, and a children’s storybook.  You can order them (for free!) by emailing grief@sesameworkshop.org.  You can also download or print all of the materials from their website.

Parent Resources Topic Page- Grief

Downloadable When Families Grieve Materials

The Fred Rogers Company “Dealing with Death”

This parent resource page is a wonderful, brief overview of working with young children who have experienced a loss.  It discusses children’s curiosity and questions surrounding death, feelings expression, and the need to prepare children for funerals and rituals surrounding death.  The “Helpful Hints” tab has good guidelines for talking about death with young children.

Special Challenges: Dealing with Death

Books for Young Children

There are many books for early childhood that cover death and grief.  Here are a few of my favorites that are suitable for a general audience as they use simple, but gentle and truthful language, and avoid specific reference to any one religious belief. I am linking to the Amazon pages for these books for easy reference, but do not receive any monetary gain from doing so.

I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas

Where Are You: A Child’s Book About Loss by Laura Olivieri

Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie

Although not specifically about death, the next two books can be useful for helping children feel a continued connection with the deceased:

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst

Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You  by Nancy Tillman

Locate a Family Grief Support Center

National Alliance for Grieving Children: Find Support

New York Life and the Moyer Foundation have partnered to create the National Bereavement Resource Guide which includes listings for grief support centers/organizations and grief camps in every state.

National Bereavement Resource Guide

Helpful Websites

National Alliance for Grieving Children

New York Life Foundation: A Child In Grief

The Dougy Center: The National Center for Grieving Children and Families

The Centering Corporation

The Centering Corporation has many resources including books, pamphlets and educational materials for working with bereaved families.

I hope that these resources are useful for supporting young children experiencing grief and loss.  Please share resources you find helpful in the comments!

 

Photo Credit: Jessica Lucia via Flickr

Bo’s Place: Grief Support Volunteer

heart and hands

heart and hands

When I completed my child life internship I knew that it might take some time for me to find a child life position. My husband and I took turns pursuing our graduate education and so my job search was limited to Houston and nearby communities if we wanted to be able to live in the same city. I started searching for ways to continue learning about psychosocial care and build on the skills I gained during internship.  I learned about Bo’s Place, Houston’s non-profit grief support center, from another child life specialist.  I decided to train as a volunteer and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my professional journey.

What started out as an attempt to deepen my understanding of grief and bereavement became so much more.  I’ve volunteered for years now and plan on continuing for as long as I can and they will have me. I’ve facilitated in peer support groups for children from preschool age through teens.  I’ve been a camp counselor at their weekend family Camp Healing Hearts. I’ve gained so much from my time at Bo’s Place: friendships and professional connections with an amazing group of volunteer facilitators, training in grief and trauma, professional development workshops, and the opportunity to work with kids in an environment that is truly attuned to their needs.  Bo’s Place has been a warm and consistent space for me as I’ve navigated different jobs and new skills. It has become part of my sense of community and professional identity.

Bo’s Place follows a peer support group model for grief and bereavement.  The core of their programming focuses on children and families, but they also have groups for adults and pregnancy loss.  Services are free for participants and there is no “timeline” for their participation.  Regardless of the timing of the death, if the family is grieving and needs support, Bo’s Place will either offer them a space or help direct them to another community resource that might meet their needs.  As a child life specialist, it warms my heart to volunteer in a space that has a playroom, art room, music room, and “tornado” room (indoor space for active group games).  They recognize the need for children to play out their feelings in a safe space and make it a reality.

So, if you are looking for a rewarding volunteer experience, check out Bo’s Place or the grief support center in your community.  People often ask if it is sad to work with grieving children. Honestly, while it can occasionally be sad or emotionally intense, there is also a ton of laughter and a lot of playfulness. Bo’s Place is a hopeful space; families see that they are not alone, get to share memories and feelings, and learn to cope.

If you are interested in applying to become a volunteer facilitator, please read more about it here.

 

Photo Credit: Luke Saagi via Flickr