154020830The death of a loved one is an overwhelming experience. Logically understanding that all that is living will one day die does not prepare for the emotional reality of a deeply felt personal loss. Moving forward without a significant loved one can feel daunting and draining. For the adult griever, the experience of grief can be compounded when you are also watching your children experience such a loss.

The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital recognizes that the loss of a family member is devastating and wishes to appreciate the specific needs of children after such a life altering loss. Creating a safe, therapeutic environment for children and families to connect in the midst of such a loss has been an ongoing and important goal. The Children’s Grief Support Group was created with this goal in mind and UVM Children’s Hospital is proud to continue to offer such a group to the community.

The Children’s Grief Support Group is open to children, ages 6 and older, who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Meeting once a month, children and teens connect with peers in developmentally appropriate groupings to express feelings, give and receive support, and learn as a group coping strategies to assist in their grieving. Often it can be beneficial to bring children together who are grieving to offer a mix of opportunities to share their experiences with grief and loss. These experiences are shared through group discussion, art, and play. It’s acknowledged that while grief is a unique experience for each individual, support helps in the grief process. It is not the intent, nor is it possible, to take away the pain of children’s normal grief emotions. Rather, it is the goal to help children mourn the death in a healthy way and to teach them skills to cope with the painful feelings.

Concurrently while children and teen groups meet, a group for adults takes place with the focus, “How do I support my grieving child while I myself am also grieving?” The adult group is facilitated by Ally Parker, bereavement care coordinator from the Chittenden County VNA, and Loie Morse, marriage and family therapist from Montpelier. This inclusion ensures that all members of the family receive support after a loss.

The Children’s Grief Support Group meets the last Saturday of every month from 10am to noon at the hospital. There is no cost for attending this support group, but please register by calling one of the facilitators below. Registering for each session ensures that there are adequate materials for the group available and gives families more detailed information about what to expect. Group support is not always the right intervention for everyone. An intake process is done with every family where it is discussed whether or not the group setting is the most beneficial fit for that family and families are connected to resources appropriate to their needs.

Grief can feel very isolating, especially for children. Creating a place for families to come and build a network of support allows for peaceful moments in the midst of the stressors of grief. The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital looks forward to continuing to support families experiencing loss by offering a place of compassion and respite.

Please contact Ali Waltien, CCLS 802-847-4069 or Jenny Eddy, CCLS 802-847-4526 for more information about the Children’s Grief Support Group.

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