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Home Nursing Agency invites community to observe 2020 Children’s Grief Awareness Day on Nov. 19

Long overlooked, childhood bereavement is a critical issue and an increasingly important national priority. Based on the 2020 Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM), one in 12 children in Pennsylvania will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18. Join the Healing Patch Children’s Grief Program in showing support of these often “forgotten mourners” on Children’s Grief Awareness Day, observed Nov. 19.

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.

“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,” said Melody Ray, Healing Patch coordinator.

“Grief that is not expressed, validated and 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.”

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. “Even during these unprecedented times, our volunteers continue to offer support -they are truly the heart of the Healing Patch.”

Each year, the Healing Patch joins in the observation of Children’s Grief Awareness Day on the third Thursday of November to bring awareness to the unique needs of grieving children. You can get involved on Nov. 19 by wearing blue. Send photos of yourself, family members, co-workers or others wearing blue to steinbuglsm@upmc.edu or message the Healing Patch Children’s Grief Program Facebook page.

Do you interact frequently with a grieving child? Here are some 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. 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, contact the Healing Patch at 1-800-445-6262 or visit homenursingagency.com.

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