When my husband died, I made a few promises to myself. I promised I would not hide my grief, and I promised to get support for our family. Grief is a unique experience for everyone, with no script or guidelines to follow. Society can send the message that we shouldn’t talk about grief or difficult things, creating feelings of shame and isolation for those who grieve. We can receive the message that we should “move on,” “get over it,” and not speak of it.
If these are the messages adults receive, what about our kids? I knew my young son would follow my lead — and it would be up to me and those around him to teach him how to grieve.
This felt like a huge responsibility. I wanted him to know that whatever he felt was OK and normal, and that I could handle any questions he asked. I shared this perspective with family, friends, and others, like the teachers at his preschool, to help them understand that it was OK for him to talk about his dad and ask questions, and that it was normal for him to cry one minute then laugh and play the next. I also understood that my son’s grief would evolve as he got older.
My son is now 6 years old but was just shy of 2 when my husband died, and a few months ago for the first time he began verbalizing a desire to know “other kids like me.” We all want to feel less alone in our grief and experience the feeling of someone else “just getting it.” So we recently became connected to a local grief organization focused on providing support to grieving children.
The third Thursday of November is Children’s Grief Awareness Day — a day to bring awareness to children’s experiences of grief when a loved one has died. The holiday season can be a challenging time for grieving people, so the date intentionally falls in mid-November.
To help raise awareness and provide resources, I’ve prepared this list of grief and bereavement support services for children and their families. I am incredibly grateful for the caring and generous support these organizations provide to so many families in Massachusetts.
The Children’s Room offers grief support services for children and their families in the forms of peer support groups, parent groups, and a teen program. In addition, they offer consultations and referrals.
This organization offers multiple forms of support to children, teens, young adults, and families who have experienced the death of a loved one. The groups and individual support are provided at no cost to the families. HEARTplay is a part of Good Shepherd Community Care.
Camp Erin is a no-cost bereavement camp for children and teens who have experienced the death of an important person in their lives. Camp Erin is a part of the Eluna Network and one of the programs of Good Shepherd Community Care.
Jeff’s Place offers a variety of services, including several bereavement groups — parent/caregiver loss, sibling/child loss, substance use loss, grandparent grief support, after-school groups, and individual counseling.
This hospice organization offers support groups for adults, children, and teens. Most groups are held virtually, and most services are provided free of charge. The widows group I attended was open to all and did not require that a spouse/partner had been in hospice care.
This is a one-day camp for children who have experienced the death of someone close to them. It is an opportunity to connect with others, share your story of loss and to also have some fun with other children.
This program offers grief support to children ages 0-18 who are patients of Boston Medical Center. They offer grief therapy, caregiver consultations, and connections to other grief resources.
One of the programs this organization offers is a free week-long camp for children who are grieving the loss of a parent (or primary caregiver) or sibling.