10/2/2013 6:00:00 AM Hospice starting support group program
A 5-year-old girl participating in the grief and loss children’s support group at Joan & Diana Hospice Home shows off her picture to social worker Helen Ekholt. The girl was asked to draw something that comforts her when she has a bad dream and chose to illustrate her Lalaloopsy doll, which she hugs when she is afraid. The support group offers free monthly sessions that include crafts, discussions, artwork, snacks and outdoor breaks.
KINGMAN - The pictures hanging on the walls of the Joan and Diana Hospice Home accentuate the positive message fostered by the Kingman Regional Medical Center facility.
In a place where sorrow and death are the norm, and families routinely grieve the loss of those dear to them, peace and hope can still be found. The pictures - golden sunlight streaming over colorful mountains, a Native American on horseback stretching out his arms as an eagle soars skyward, delicately preserved flowers and butterflies - are a constant reminder to the adults grappling with life's difficult moments.
Now, the soothing artwork is being viewed by a younger audience. The hospice is offering a free monthly support group for school-age children who have experienced a loss from a temporary separation or a death. Each participant's family is interviewed by a counselor before joining the program. Activities include crafts, discussions, artwork, snacks and outdoor breaks.
The support group is led by bereavement counselor Rhoda Deneau and social worker Helen Ekholt. They also plan to start an art expression group soon for teenagers who are struggling with grief and loss. Some of the pictures could join those already displayed on the hospice home's walls.
"There are limited services for grief and loss in this community, and we found there was a need for them," said Deneau. "Our support group helps children feel like they're not so alone in their grief. They don't want to be different from their peers and they don't know of other kids who feel sad and angry like they do. It's important for them to have a safe place to hang out with kids who understand them."
Many times, adults facing loss and grief are going through their own struggles and need help dealing with their children's emotions, said Ekholt. During the sessions, counselors and children talk about the actual death experience, discuss the physical feeling of grief and explore ways to remember loved ones who have left or died. Deneau and Ekholt use arts and crafts to teach coping techniques to the children.
"There's a lot of research that shows that early childhood traumatic experiences like death and loss have lifelong effects," said Ekholt. "A group like this gives voice to the truth-tellers - the children who aren't afraid to express what they're feeling. It helps them to heal."
During September's meeting, a small group of children gathered under the inspirational pictures to make dream catchers, which are hoops decorated with string, beads and feathers. According to legend, Native Americans made dream catchers to protect sleeping individuals by catching their bad dreams in the webbing while allowing their good dreams through a hole in the middle of the artwork.
Deneau led the children in a discussion about bad dreams, asking them to describe some they have experienced and listening as they talked about being eaten by sharks, dropped in a hole and left there and being forced to skydive. Deneau told the children they could cope with bad dreams by talking to their parents about them, making up a happier ending or finding a way to comfort themselves. The children drew something they use to relieve their fears.
An 11-year-old girl, who has been attending the group since it started, worked with Deneau to make a dream catcher she could take home and display in her room. The girl said she decided to join the group after two of her friends and their mother were killed in a car accident. The loss of her brother, who was sent elsewhere to live after getting in trouble at home, compounded her grief, said the girl, whose family didn't want her to be identified.
"Things were starting to get better with my brother but when my friends died, it was really hard for me," said the girl. "I was upset and cried a lot. This group has helped me because I get to share my thoughts. It's nice to know that if things get worse for me, I have someone to talk to here. I think it has helped me and the other kids, and I encourage anyone who needs help to come and share with us."
For more information or to participate in the children's support or teen art expression group, call Deneau at (928) 681-8710.
Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
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I am very thankful for Rhoda, Helen and this children's group. It is really good to know that in a time of such heartbreak and despair, there's support and resources from the community,
Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
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What a Blessing
What a blessing this program is for children. I lost my father when I was just seven years old and for years and years I thought he was just hiding from us because he was mad at me for something. That's how a child's mind works they tend to blame themselves for deaths and illnesses. I wish I had received counseling but that was in the 50's when such things were unheard of. I remember always looking in crowds to see if my beloved and idolized daddy was one of those faces. It is heartbreaking that any child should suffer like that for years. So glad for this program to help others.