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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Grief’

“…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.”
J.K. Rowling

As I shared in the first blog post, I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books. I have been since I was young and I found in them a way to express feelings about the death of my father that I had previously been unable to explain.

We have come to the end of my week with this blog and I am ever so grateful to have been given the opportunity to share my personal and professional experiences with you. I hope you have found them helpful, and I hope they can help a grieving child in your life.

The above quote is by author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books. It is the one gift I hope to give to all the grieving children I work with, and it is a gift that I am constantly reminded of myself as a grieving child. Even though my father is gone, his love and protection are always with me, wrapping me up like a warm, safe blanket when times are hard.

Before we depart, I would like to leave you with a few resources:

The National Alliance for Grieving Children does great work for bereaved families and has a wonderful database of grief centers around the country that can be found here:

http://childrengrieve.org/find-support

I love nature, as did my father, and I am a firm believer in the healing power that summer camp can have for grieving children. Many local grief centers offer camps, but two national camps are:

Camp Erin:

http://www.moyerfoundation.org/programs/camperin.aspx

and Comfort Zone Camp:

http://www.comfortzonecamp.org/

Comfort Zone Camp also runs a wonderful social networking site for bereaved individuals called Hello Grief, I strongly encourage you to sign up and connect here:

http://www.hellogrief.org/

I want to thank you again for allowing me to share my experiences with you. I also want to thank Jen for allowing a 23 year old BSW student to take over her blog for a week, especially when I turned in passages late and read The Hunger Games instead of doing research. I am eternally grateful for all the kindness you have given me and all the lessons you have taught me.

For now,
-Liz Hendrickson

From Jennifer:  Liz is actually too sweet!  She was an incredible part of our kid’s program at hospice and our summer camps.  I was reminded in her introduction just how young Liz is.  I never thought about it when she worked with us as she was an incredible professional at an early age, volunteering at a sexual abuse shelter in addition to her hospice work — all the while being in college.

I truly believe that people like Liz, who have been there, need to be supported and fostered in our field.  Liz has a terrible loss for any child and she has used that loss to help others, develop strength, compassion, and an incredible love of life, and become an amazing adult.

Liz knows what it’s like to be severely affected by grief and live to tell about it.  Not only live but thrive.  And we don’t have enough people in our field.. social workers, therapists, RNs, doctors, etc. who have truly worked with their grief, befriended it, learned to make it a part of them and use it to create a better world.  

I am honored that Liz was able to find the time to do this for us.  She knew I had a lot to do, getting ready for my retreat at Upaya Zen Center on Dying and was ready and willing to help me out.  I cannot wait to see where she ends up when she gets that LCSW… maybe she’ll remember her old friend and hire me some day!

With deep gratitude and continued friendship Liz,

Jen

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“Death is a crisis which should be shared by all members of the family.  Children are too often forgotten by grieving adults.  Silence and secrecy deprive them of an important opportunity to share grief.”

~~Rabbi Earl A. Grollman

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Using Literature to Facilitate Grief Discussion

I have a confession to make. When Jen first presented me with the wonderful opportunity to take over her blog I had planned on spending the week doing research to present scientific evidence of theories on working with grieving children. But that didn’t happen.

It started innocently enough, a friend and I had planned to see The Hunger Games in theaters on Saturday, and I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie (because the book is always better than the movie in my opinion). That’s when it happened, I was hooked. I was drawn in by the action, the drama, and the main character, Katniss whose father died five years before the story begins. Before I knew it I spent every non-working hour reading the entire trilogy.

My weekend reading binge did provide me with a reminder of why I and so many other grieving children are drawn into books such as The Hunger Games. We are desperately searching for someone who can put into words the pain that we often can’t put into words.

The last time I stayed up all night reading a book was when the Harry Potter series was out. (aside from studying in college and I will admit that if I were to put half as much energy into my GPA as I did The Hunger Games or Harry Potter I would have a PHD and then some by now). Harry Potter, who is also known as “the boy who lived,” lost both of his parents when he was a baby and subsequently experienced the loss of many loved ones throughout the series.

I remember being in the fifth grade and reading the first book in the Harry Potter series. My father had died two years earlier. I was young, lonely, and scared, but after reading about Harry’s experiences navigating through the world as a grieving child I felt, for the first time in my life, that I could be normal.

The idea of using fictional characters in literature as a guide for children’s group activities has been well studied. If you’re interested in a program Kathryn and Marc Markell wrote a wonderful book called “The Children Who Lived,” which gives activities for using themes found not only in the Harry Potter books but also in other popular fiction works. You can find a link to purchase the book here:
http://www.amazon.com/The-Children-Who-Lived-Adolescents/dp/0415957656

What my weekend reading binge reminded me most of all is that pop culture is ever changing and grief is being found in more and more places. Though Disney movies have often featured characters who have lost a parent, it hasn’t been until recently that we’ve these characters actually grieving on screen. We’ve also seen an increase in grief being addressed in literature as well.
This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to help children express themselves to us through these characters. For example, I found myself particularly drawn to the main character in The Hunger Games because I saw a lot of my own struggles in what the author was presenting to me.
I think back to myself in fifth grade again, my father had died two years ago and I was from the “don’t talk about it and it doesn’t exist,” type of household. And then I read Harry Potter, and I was transported to a world where grief was accepted, and encouraged.
It doesn’t take a group activity to discuss this with grieving children, just asking the child what feelings they have in common with the characters, or don’t have in common can open up a conversation about what the child is experiencing and help them feel less alone in the grief process.
-Liz Hendrickson

PS, On our Blog Talk Radio Show, I discussed an article from Alan Wolfelt on diagnosising grieving kids with ADHD and my Pinterest board… here are the links:

The AW piece:
http://www.childlife.org/conference09/data/papers/001.pdf

My Pinterest:

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