Hospice of Charlotte offers bereavement services for children

Sari Green/Courier Hospice of Charlotte is offering a new program for children who have experienced the death of loved ones. The Children’s Grieving Circle will take place at the St. Croix Public Library and at the Ross Memorial Library. Hospice Director Cathy Jackson, left, and Board Chair and volunteer Susan Schnier said they have purchased a number of books that will be given to children who attend the meetings, at no cost to them.

Charlotte County – Hospice of Charlotte offers a variety of services to members of the community, and one of the newest services is the Children’s Grieving Circle. Hospice Director Cathy Jackson said this program will take place at the St. Croix Public Library in St. Stephen and at the Ross Memorial Library in Saint Andrews. She and other board members felt the libraries were the best locations for this type of program, and they are working with a variety of other agencies – joining forces for the Children’s Grieving Circle.

“We were given financial support from the Kiwanis in Saint Andrews, and the Fundy Community Foundation,” said Jackson. “We were given this support to purchase children’s grief books that we will give to children to keep. We do have a library in our office of adult grief books that we lend out at any time. But, these are books we’re actually going to give to the children. We spent that money for them specifically.”

Board Chair and volunteer for Hospice, Susan Schnier, said there is probably no better place to host this type of program than at the libraries. She said Hospice and many other organizations, including the libraries, the Kiwanis, and the Fundy Community Foundation are teaming up to make sure there is this type of service for children in Charlotte County.

“We were talking about the best place to have it,” said Schneer. “Who knows children better than librarians? We’re all kind of joining forces to create this new program. It’s needed out there, but we’re having a hard time getting the message out that it is happening.

“We did have one session lined up, and we had two children who were supposed to come. But, it was a really bad, rainy night, and one of the children was sick.”

Jackson and Schnier said this is a much-needed program not available for children elsewhere. Schnier said children often grieve differently than adults, internalizing their feelings rather than exploring and talking about them. Both feel that this program will help children to learn how to deal with their grief.

“Children can internalize things, and we don’t know it. It’s very difficult for children to handle the loss of a grandparent, parent, sibling, friend, or even a pet. This will help children to express how they are feeling,” said Schnier.

One method to assist kids to cope with grief is through art. Jackson said the child psychologist who was on hand at the first meeting had set up a table with paper and crayons, with the intention of having the children draw their feelings. The psychologist will also be at future meetings of the Children’s Grieving Circle.

Hospice has ordered several books for this program, including one that Schnier particularly loves, “Help Me Say Goodbye”. This book discusses how every living thing eventually dies, and Schnier thinks it is a great book for children to read to help them deal with the loss of a loved one.

“It talks about how everything dies. Birds die. Animals die. Fish die. People die. It encompasses it all in one book,” said Schnier.

In addition to the organizations that are helping to get this program off the ground, Jackson said there are also others who are taking the time to help out. She said Bob Clinch of the Red Cross, along with his dog, Maddie, were on hand for the first meeting, along with a retired children’s therapist and Emily Cunningham will also be volunteering to help children through the grieving process.

“They are anxious to come back for our next date,” said Jackson. “We’ll set the next date for September. We’ll coordinate with the principals of the schools.”

Even though this is a program for children, Schnier and Jackson said parents are always included. For the most part, they would be in the background, observing, but they also want parents to participate. If anyone has a death in their families, and would like to be able to help their children get through the grieving process, they are welcome to attend the meetings at the libraries. There is no cost to attend any of these sessions, or for any of the services offered by Hospice of Charlotte. For more information about the Children’s Grieving Circle, please contact Jackson at 465-0800, or email director.hospice@nb.aibn.com