It is estimated that one in seven children will lose a parent or sibling before age twenty. (New York Life Foundation)
In Northwest Ohio, that means approximately 15,000 children, teens, and young adults are grieving the loss of someone significant in their lives right now. Following the death of a significant family member, children generally experience an intense feeling of loss and sadness that may last for an extended period, and can have a profound effect on their lives.
In a society that is anxious about death, kids get the message that people are uncomfortable with their grief. As a result, many suffer in silence and isolation, with few opportunities to share their feelings – and inadequate support from the individuals and institutions around them. Not wanting to burden parents or other family members, children may keep their feelings inside, or they may act out in destructive ways.
Unresolved childhood grief is linked with depression, violence, truancy, school failure, substance abuse, even suicide. Current research and practice teaches us when children have the opportunity to grieve openly and share their feelings honestly, they feel less alone and in turn fare better than they would otherwise. Peer support groups can play an important role in bereavement, and help prevent grief from becoming a more serious social, emotional, or health problem.
Donna’s Village offers free peer support groups for those who are grieving. Our groups are age appropriate, and led by trained volunteer facilitators. Children and teens are encouraged to express their thoughts and feelings through music, play, art, journal writing, and other activities. Support groups are offered for adults while kids’ groups are in session, giving them an opportunity to share, and to learn ways to help their children, as well as themselves.
We recognize the work of mourning in childhood needs to be addressed repeatedly at different developmental and chronological milestones. Because grieving is a process that continues over time, children will revisit the loss repeatedly, especially during significant life events. Therefore, families can attend sessions for as long as they feel necessary. As the only free, open-ended, bereavement support group focusing primarily on children and young adults in northwest Ohio, Good Grief fills an important and unmet need in our community.
“Confronting our feelings and giving them appropriate expression always takes strength, not weakness… It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”
― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things To Remember