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Your first concern is your children. How do you help them in the midst of your own grief? We can offer help to you and your children. Your town may be close enough to access the services of Pathfinders or other grieving children's program. If your local area does not have a support program, we are hopeful the information on this website will be helpful; particularly the recommended reading lists and resource links.
Pathfinders: Support for Grieving Children (to be referenced as Pathfinders) is a program of Hospice of Eastern Maine.
Pathfinders focus is directed towards the grieving child; however, the philosophy of the program is to support the family as a whole. The program was designed to provide support for children between the ages of 3 and 18 and their parents/caregivers. Children attending
Pathfinders must be accompanied by at least one family member/caregiver. We require this because children grieve differently from adults and the role of the parent/caregiver is to understand how to be a support to the child while experiencing their own grief. Teens attending the program may be allowed to participate without a family member present if the loss they are experiencing was a friend with whom there was little or no acquaintance with the family.
The role of the facilitator within each group is to ensure every member receives respect, feels safe and comfortable when choosing to share with the group, has the opportunity to be heard, recognizes, develops and applies what he/she already knows as individual strengths and is empowered to make decisions relative to daily living.
The child's developmental age and maturity, the type of loss and previous experience with loss are all factors that influence how a child grieves.
Children grieve differently than adults
Children are quick to blame themselves and think their thoughts or wishes about someone made them die (magical thinking). They also think they could have done something to prevent the death. Often times children will not disclose their feelings of self-blame.
What Children Need to Heal from A Death
To acknowledge that the loved one has died
Healing involves the development of a new relationship which is one of memory rather than presence. Children may get the message that it is best to forget and move on, especially if adults avoid talking about the person who died and avoid talking about their own memories. The only way for children to find hope and healing is by embracing their memories, if not allowed to do so, it could result in long term complications effecting the child’s physical and mental well-being.
Holidays and other special days- Find specific ways to honor the memories of the person who died on holidays and special days. Children need to know that the significance of their loved one did not end with his/her death.
To feel and express the pain of death
It is often believe that time alone will provide healing following a significant death. Children are quickly moved away from uncomfortable feelings, and adults tend to keep themselves busy to avoid facing the pain of death. However, it is moving toward the pain that ultimately heals. Children express pain differently at various ages and at different stages of the grieving process. Their reactions also depend on who died, how long the individual had been sick, and how prepared they were for the death.
Integrate the death into their lives
The death of a family member forever changes a child’s understanding of the world. Healing requires that the child find meaning in the death, develop a new self-identity and reinvest his/her emotional energy in other relationships.