What resources exist for kids who have lost a loved one?
July 12th, 2020
There are lots. There are bereavement camps for kids so that they go and spend time with other kids who are going through it, too. This way, they don't feel like they're the only one dealing with those issues - grief and loss. Sometimes you can be at school and you're the only kid in your class or in your grade whose mother died of cancer. So you not only have this feeling of how strange or terrible or hard things are inside and at home, but you also feel not like your friends.
There are also lots of books and most hospices have bereavement materials for children and adults. Even if the patient wasn't enrolled in hopsice, you can call the local hospice and ask for resources and they will certainly help. Also, I encourage the parent(s) to let the school know what's happening if the child has lost someone close and is going through this very hard thing.
July 15th, 2020
A number of books written for children and adults exist that range from self-help, reflective and workbook guides. For experiential support, a variety of wonderful camps have been created that are designed specifically for children of all ages, to come to a safe space and be with peers who are experiencing grief. Trained grief counselors are also present and campers are often paired with a big brother / big sister-camper who has participated in a prior session so no one feels alone. Most importantly, camp is camp, so campers get to just be kids. They get to experience without being placed under a microscope or analyzed while at the same time, deliberately being with peers with shared experiences, these unique camps become a safe place to come and not have to pretend, not have to hide, and not have to defend or explain why you are or are not okay. If you burst out crying or laughing, no one is going to run up and say, "Are you okay?"
Instead, people are going to be together. Often times when other people ask that question, "Are you okay," what they're really asking is, "Am I upsetting you? Did I say something wrong?" They're really more concerned about themselves. When you're amongst people who understand grief, none of us bother to ask that question because we know the answer. That's not a useful question to ask. The thing to say is just, "I'm here. Would you like me to be here with you? You can be whatever you need to be right now". That's what these camps provide: full-on play-camp, be-who-you-are-kid camp, and be-who-you-are grief camp.
So these are wonderful resources for children and they are all around the country. Most of them are free. And even during times like COVID-19, when we can't travel, online versions exist. Check out https://comfortzonecamp.org/ In addition, all hospices offer free bereavement services for families who have lost a loved one under their care and many offer services for their community even if they did not provide direct care to the family. Finally, some very unique youth-focused bereavement non-profit organizations exist that offer resources on-line. In my own hometown, we are fortunate to have https://josiesplace.org/resources.
July 21st, 2020
Losing a loved one at any age is challenging, but processing and grieving the loss of someone close as a child or young adult can be even more difficult. Resources should take into consideration the child’s developmental stage and emotional capacity so that the child can get the support they need.
Two trusted sources of information on how to help children grieving the loss of a loved one are Good Grief and The Dougy Center. Both organizations have programs, support groups, activities, and resources that are appropriate for children and young adults, as well as resources for parents to navigate changes that impact a child’s life when a loss occurs.