Three Douglas County agencies have teamed up to start a new bereavement support program for children and teens who are grieving the death of a family member or friend from illness, accident or suicide.
“If they don’t know someone who can kind of walk along their side, then they can feel very, very isolated and lonely,” said Linda Upstill, aftercare coordinator at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. “I think oftentimes people don’t realize children do grieve, so I am hoping we will raise some awareness that way.”
She said children often grieve differently from adults. It can be difficult for some children to put their feelings into words. Children’s grief can be sporadic; they may cry and then turn around and play. Sometimes, children regress in their behaviors and may act younger than their age.
For those under 9, Upstill said, the permanency of death can be a tough concept to grasp.
“There is no timeline to grieve, and it’s different for every single individual, and it is different for every single kid, so hopefully what we will do is normalize it a little more so they don’t feel so alone,” Upstill said.
The free, six-week program called Keepsake Place will begin Oct. 10. The weekly classes will be from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Midland Care’s Adult Day Care Center in North Lawrence. The children will be divided into appropriate-age groups. The program is for children who have been grieving for at least three months because they will be better able to concentrate and won’t be as stressed.
“They will get more out of it,” Upstill said.
She will meet separately with the children’s parents or guardians to help educate them about their children’s grief and what they can do to help.
The program is being provided through Rumsey-Yost, Midland Care and Visiting Nurses. They received a $2,500 grant from the Hospice Education Institute to start the program.
Sarah Rooney, hospice volunteer coordinator at Visiting Nurses, is looking forward to working with the children. She said the classes will include sharing photos and making mementos.
“There’s no grief support for kids around here. There’s nothing,” she said. “My greatest hope is that they don’t feel alone, that they meet other kids like themselves and, in the best case scenario, the parents and children become friends so they have an ongoing support group.”
Rooney said they will have resources available for children who may need intense therapy or support beyond the program.
HOW TO SIGN UP
Keepsake Place is a new six-week support program for children and teens in Douglas County and surrounding areas who are grieving the death of a family member or friends.
The program will be on Wednesdays, Oct. 10-Nov. 14, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Midland Care’s Adult Day Care Center, 319 Perry St., in North Lawrence. There is no cost to attend.
For more information or to register, contact Sarah Rooney, of Visiting Nurses, at 843-3738 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The program is provided by Midland Care, Visiting Nurses and Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home, and they plan to offer it twice a year.