Hospice & Palliative Care has been a recognized community resource on grief issues by physicians, health agencies and are organizations for over 30 years. If left misunderstood, grief can manifest itself into many things – including physical illness and loss of self-esteem – seriously affecting the wellness of our children. Through close cooperation with community organizations such as schools, hospitals, pediatrician’s offices, county health departments and churches, we hope to better identify and assist children affected by loss through illness, tragedy and violence.
Children have their own individual responses to the death of a loved one. They may openly share their thoughts or they may act as though they don’t care. However, they do care and may have compartmentalized the loss – putting it in another part of their brain to deal with at a later time. When grief is not processed, the feelings may show up later as misdirected anger, fears of abandonment, numbing, panic, sleep disturbance, and learning disabilities. Therefore, it is necessary that children process grief in their own individual way and with age-appropriate strategies.
Triggers that cause grief include the following:
Death – a person’s life has ended. Someone we love is gone. It is difficult for young children, who have no concept of finite time to understand the finality of death.
Divorce – a family unit is forever altered. Divorce represents the end of a nuclear family’s existence.
Abandonment – someone we love or want to love leaves. Even single-parent children who have never known their fathers feel they’ve been deserted by their dads and endure the agony of great emptiness.
Illness or disability – well-being has eased to exist.
Incarceration of a parent or sibling – children are deprived of a loved one’s daily presence.
Other types of loss – children may grieve for a home and treasures lost in a fire, flood, or other devastating disasters – death or loss of a pet; relocation – children grieve for the friends or school left behind when the family relocates. Suzy Yehl Marta, Founder and President of RAINBOWS Inc. Healing the Hurt, Restoring the Hope
In cooperation with local schools and guidance counselors, Hospice & Palliative Care staff provides support groups on site to grieving children and teens at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. These groups help the youth cope with their grief and commemorate their loved one.