Dealing with the loss of a close friend or relative can be difficult for anybody. But experts say children can have a particularly hard time because they lack the skills to cope with grief, and the adults around them often don’t know how to respond to the different ways children grieve.
To help with that, three local groups are coming together to offer a program called Keepsake Place, a guided peer-support group for children and teens in Douglas County and surrounding areas who are grieving the recent death of a family member or close friend due to illness, accident or suicide. Among other things, Keepsake Place uses arts and crafts to help children work through their grief.
The program is being sponsored by Visiting Nurses Hospice, Midland Hospice and Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. The first event, Keepsake Day, will be 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, at the Lawrence Arts Center.
“It just gives them a chance to meet other children who are going through the same thing, identify and normalize feelings of grief, and give them some coping tools to help them find their way through it,” said Sarah Rooney, volunteer coordinator for Visiting Nurses Hospice. “We’ll do that in a hands-on kind of way. We’re not just going to sit around in a therapeutic circle and talk. It’s a lot more interactive, hands-on and playful.”
Rooney said the program is designed for school-age children, ages 8 to 18, who have been in bereavement approximately three months before the start of the program. They will be divided into age groups based on stage of development and needs.
“They are going to make some keepsake items but also some items that are more playful kinds of coping tools,” Rooney said. “Objects that will help them identify feelings; objects that will let them know when they are having strong feelings, things they can do to help themselves.”
Parents and caregivers are asked to participate in a parallel group that will be led by a professional facilitator, who will provide information about the grieving process and skills to help them better support their bereaved child.
The event is free and open to the community. Rooney said organizers hope to sponsor similar programs multiple times a year.
For more information, or to RSVP, call Sarah Rooney at (785) 843-3738.