10/27/2022 One in 12 children in Pennsylvania will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18, according to the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (Judi’s House, 2022). While life seems to continue like normal for others, these “forgotten mourners” have had their lives forever changed. Join the Healing Patch Children’s Grief Program in showing support for these grieving children throughout the month of November for Children’s Grief Awareness Month. The Healing Patch invites the community to get involved by wearing blue on Children’s Grief Awareness Day, Nov. 17.
“Death of a caregiver or family member left unmanaged or avoided can have a significant negative impact on the child’s ongoing development and mental health,” shares Melody Ray, Healing Patch Coordinator. “Grief that is not expressed, validated, or managed can put a significant strain on the family system. By acknowledging and supporting grieving families in our community, we can see positive outcomes in the children and families’ coping and resilience. The Healing Patch is a place for the community to learn about how to support these grieving children, as well as a resource for local grieving families to gain connections, support, and hope.”
Pictured: Blair volunteers for the Healing Patch Children’s Grief Program recognized Children’s Grief Awareness Day last year by wearing blue. Offering free supportive services for local grieving children and their families, the Healing Patch invites the community to observe Children’s Grief Awareness Month throughout November and to get involved for Children’s Grief Awareness Day on Nov. 17.
Prevalence rates of childhood grief vary across the country. In Cambria County, the CBEM approximates one in 12 children will experience the death of a parent by age 18, ranking it as the second highest prevalence of grieving children out of 67 Pennsylvania counties. In Blair County, the CBEM approximates one in 16 children will experience the death of a parent by age 18, ranking 27th in Pennsylvania.
The Healing Patch began in 2006 as a free program to help grieving children and their families through peer support, education, and more.
“We couldn’t provide the services that we do without the support of our community and the continued dedication of our volunteers,” said Shalen Steinbugl, Healing Patch Volunteer Coordinator/Grief Specialist. “Volunteers are truly the heart of the Healing Patch.”
Melody will be participating in a Virtual Children’s Grief Awareness Day event, which will be streamed throughout the day on the Highmark Caring Place YouTube channel. As the author of Someone I Love Died from a Drug Overdose, she will be presenting information and sharing an activity related to children’s loss from drug overdose. Additional information about ways to participate in Children’s Grief Awareness Day is available here.
The National Alliance of Children’s Grief recognizes all of November as Children’s Grief Awareness Month. This year everyone is encouraged to “Listen on Repeat” to children who are grieving. Through active and sustained listening, we create space for children to share their experience and process the death of someone significant to them.
If you have frequent interactions with a grieving child, here are 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 grief. 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.
The Healing Patch is supported in part by the Home Nursing Agency Foundation, the Patched Together Day of Music fundraiser, and various other community groups and donations. To learn more about local grief resources or to refer a child/family for services, please contact the Healing Patch at 1-800-445-6262 or click here.
Click here for more information about the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model.
About the Healing Patch
The Healing Patch Children’s Grief Program began in 2006 as a free peer support program for children and their families who have suffered the loss of a loved one, such as a parent, sibling, grandparent, or close family member. Since that time, the program has expanded to support children through in-school services, grief resources, and other community services. Sharing memories and experiences allows grieving children and families to discover that what they are going through is normal and that hope and healing are possible. The Healing Patch is a free service to the community and relies on individual and community donations, grants, and fundraising events for support. If you would like to support the Healing Patch by donating or volunteering, please contact us at 1-800-445-6262 or homenursingagency.com. The Home Nursing Agency Foundation is supported by the United Ways of Bedford County, Blair County, Huntingdon County, and the Laurel Highlands.