11/1/2018 One out of seven children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 20, according to the National Alliance of Grieving Children. Join Home Nursing Agency’s Healing Patch in showing support of these often “forgotten mourners” on Children’s Grief Awareness Day, observed Nov. 15.
“Many times children are overlooked after a death occurs,” shares Melody Ray, Volunteer Coordinator/Grief Specialist for Home Nursing Agency’s Healing Patch. “Adults may assume that children aren’t grieving if they don’t act out or visibly struggle, but children are just like adults – they all process loss differently. It’s important to allow children to have the opportunity to express themselves and share with others, including their peers and family.” The Thursday before Thanksgiving is set aside as Children’s Grief Awareness Day for an annual opportunity to recognize grieving children’s unique needs. You can show support on Nov. 15 by wearing blue or a handmade blue butterfly pin. As a symbol of hope for grieving children, the blue butterflies are being offered for a suggested donation of $1 each at the UPMC Altoona Gift Shop, UPMC Bedford Gift Shop (first photo), Station Medical Center Gift Shop (second photo), and local Home Nursing Agency offices.
Home Nursing Agency started the Healing Patch in 2006 as a free program to help grieving children and their families through peer support, education and more. The HNA “Butterfly Project” highlights the uniqueness of each child’s grief journey through the handmade butterfly pins, generously created by Healing Patch sewing and quilting volunteers. The project not only raises awareness of the grieving children in our own communities, but also supports materials for Healing Patch activities in Blair and Cambria counties, as well as in-school peer support groups.
Do you interact frequently with a grieving child?
Here are some more direct ways you can help:
- Be honest with the child. Discuss in a simple, direct and age-appropriate manner.
- Listen. Let the child share his story about what happened. Let him ask questions and do your best to answer. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
- Acknowledge the child’s grief. A child’s grief looks very different than an adult’s. It is normal for children to move in and out of grief reactions, at times being very upset or getting angry easily and at other times playing as if nothing has happened.
- Share. Tell the child stories about your own life. Times you were afraid, sad or angry. Tell them how you dealt with these situations and what you learned. Children love to hear stories about the adults in their lives and when those adults were children. Sharing stories helps a child normalize what he or she is experiencing.
- Be creative. Give the child a creative outlet to express feelings. This can be done through drawing, writing, doing crafts, listening to music, or playing games.
- Maintain clear expectations. Keep rules and boundaries consistent. Children gain security when they know what is expected from them. Children will often use their pain as an excuse for inappropriate behavior. While you should always acknowledge the grief your child is experiencing, you should also teach them to be accountable for their choices, no matter how they feel.
- Create rituals and new family traditions. Rituals can give your family tangible ways to acknowledge your grief and honor the memory of those who have died. Lighting candles, recognizing special occasions, sharing stories about those who have died or volunteering with a local charity as a family are some of the ways you can incorporate new traditions or rituals.
To learn more about local grief resources or refer a child/family for services, please contact Home Nursing Agency’s Healing Patch at 1.800.445.6262 or click here.
Gift Shops at local UPMC facilities are partnering with Home Nursing Agency’s Healing Patch to offer butterfly pins for Children’s Grief Awareness Day on Nov. 15.
First photo, pictured at the UPMC Bedford Gift Shop from left are Darla Heider, patient access manager; Barb Settlemeyer, food services manager; Patty Mullenax, food services attendant, and Beverly Ridenour, 35-year volunteer at the hospital.
Second photo, pictured at the Station Medical Center Gift Shop in Altoona from left are Janet Fiochetta, UPMC Altoona volunteer for the past 25 years, and Tina Oeffinger of the Gift Shop.