If you've driven by our building in Hubbardston MA this weekend, you've seen that our front windows are adorned with blue lights. The month of November is Children's Grief Awareness Month, with November 15th being the national recognition day, and the color used is blue.
People struggle with the thought that children grieve. Yet children do, in significant numbers. According to the recently released Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM, 2018), 1 in 15 children in the US will experience the loss of a sibling or parent by the time they are 18, and that number more than doubles by age 25. In the state of Massachusetts we are slightly below the national average, at 1 in 17, but that is still shockingly high.
What is this like for children and teens? Click here to learn interesting information from a national poll from 2011:
There are a variety of resources to better understand children's grief and how to address it, starting with childrengrieve.org which is NAGC's website. Bereavement programs exist including our own Wellness Hub Journeys, plus Jeff's Place in Framingham, The Children's Room in Arlington, and The Garden in Northampton just to name a few. Camps exist, including Comfort Zone Camps comfortzonecamp.org and Camp Erin camperinboston.org. There are explanations for how kids grieve at different developmental points in their lives, there are books to explain death and dying for kids, and there are tons and tons of resources to help children figure out how they feel and what to do with their loss. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me for resources or suggestions.
One thing I've heard many times from grieving children is that they don't like it when adults greet them with pity eyes. You know, that look of "oh I am SOOO sorry your person died and I cannot begin to fathom how hard this is for you...". They hate that. Honestly, pity doesn't help anybody, so should this surprise us? It carries with it a message of brokenness and hopelessness. But get this: children do heal. Kids are remarkably resilient, and if we can greet them with hope and faith, they can do a remarkable job on the healing journey.
So let's take it all in, take a breath, and find a way to embody hope for children who grieve - past, present and future. Be ready to share the message that you know the journey is hard, and you believe in their ability to find a way to live without their loved one. You can also help spread awareness by wearing blue on November 15, or if you are really inspired, get yourself some blue lights of your own.