VNA, Boys & Girls Club address grief for Craig, Steamboat youths

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— The loss of a loved one is difficult to cope with for anyone, but for those who don’t fully understand death, it can be especially hard, which is why the third Thursday in November is devoted to helping young people comprehend the natural occurrence a little bit better.

If you go

What: Children’s Grief Awareness Day event

When and where: 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig and Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs

Contact: 970-871-7682 or sberan@nwcovna.org

Online: childrensgriefawarenessday.org

Grief rights

1. I have the right to have my own unique feelings about death.

2. I have the right to talk about my grief whenever I feel like talking.

3. I have the right to show my feelings of grief in my own way.

4. I have the right to need other people to help me with my grief, especially grown-ups who care about me.

5. I have the right to get upset about normal, everyday problems.

6. I have the right to have “griefbursts.”

7. I have the right to use my beliefs about my god to help me deal with my feelings of grief.

8. I have the right to try to figure out why the person I love died.

9. I have the right to think and talk about my memories of the person who died.

10. I have the right to move toward and feel my grief and, over time, to heal.

Source: Dr. Allen Wolfelt

As part of Children’s Grief Awareness Day on Thursday, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Colorado will feature special events intended to help kids learn how to handle loss.

VNA representatives will be at the Boys & Girls Club of Craig from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday and the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs at the same time Thursday, discussing positive ways to work through grief.

Sandy Beran — the spiritual, bereavement and volunteer care coordinator for VNA’s Hospice and Palliative Care — said the death of someone close can be profound for a child whether it’s a parent, grandparent, other relative, a neighbor or even a pet.

“A lot of it is talking to them about what they found helpful when they were going through that,” she said.

The discussion is meant for children who have experienced some kind of loss as well as those who have yet to have a loved one pass away.

Addressing such an issue ahead of time with children often can lay the groundwork for healthy coping techniques, Beran said.

“Hopefully, this will be a stepping stone for them in their repertoire before they really do have to go through a serious loss,” she said. “That way, they know that it’s OK to talk about it instead of just keeping their feelings pushed down. When they don’t talk about it, their feelings just seem to get bigger and bigger. When they let it out, it allows some of the negative to leave and make room for more positive thoughts and framework.”

Part of Beran’s job with the VNA is working with families going through a loss, which often includes young children who are confused or scared about what death means.

“We want it to be as meaningful as possible for them,” she said.

Rather than trying to forget people or animals no longer in their lives, kids should find a method to remember how they were impacted by those people or pets, Beran said. Activities like preparing a collage or memory box are productive ways to work through grief.

“We want them to remember who they lost and to be able to go in honor of that person,” Beran said.

During the event, kids will be encouraged to create banners and drawings with symbols of hope and to write letters with the same message to orphaned children in Uganda.

Beran said she also hopes to hand out cards with “grief rights” that will let kids know feeling sad about loss is perfectly acceptable.

Kari Neuman, program director for Boys & Girls Club of Craig, said she hopes the kids who attend come away with the idea that grief is normal for all ages. She sees kids regularly who are quick to talk about problems they have, though some have more difficulty processing than others, particularly those who have had friends their own age leave them sooner than expected.

“Children are dealing with stuff like this every day, so we need to give them those tools of how to handle it and who to go to if they need to talk,” she said. “It’s a subject nobody really wants to talk about, but it’s important to teach them so they can be stronger from it.”

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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