Read about grief in this post from Michelle Halm, MA, M.Ed., director of Pillars’ Buddy’s Place bereavement support program.
GRIEF. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg writes about it. Comedian Patton Oswald uses humor to express it. Prince Harry of the British monarch talks about it. Performer Lady Gaga sings about it. And local families come to Buddy’s Place to gather around it.
You can find grief displayed on the big screen and small screen, in music, in the mainstream media, and all over social media. It is publicly addressed today more so than in the past, but grief is something we are often uncomfortable acknowledging.
After working with children and families in the Buddy’s Place program for seven years, I know this to be true: Grief is not a problem to be solved. It does not have a time limit. It doesn’t happen in simple-to-define stages. We don’t just “get over it.” It is something we work through.
Grief is a process that individuals and families undergo, sometimes for the remainder of their lives, ever cycling through different intervals and intensities. Sometimes it is a small ripple that nudges us, a subtle reminder of what was; sometimes it is overwhelming, like a tidal wave; at other times it can be predictable, even calm.
Grief is not exclusive to certain age groups—or any other characteristic, for that matter. As humans, we grieve loss whenever we have had the privilege of knowing someone who has made an impression on us in some meaningful way.
November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month. While it is true that grief cannot only be claimed by one age group, children are often forgotten grievers. Some feel they are not old enough to feel loss. But if a person is old enough to love, then that person is also old enough to mourn and to grieve. Grief is actually felt by a large percentage of children: 1 in 20 children will experience the death of someone significant in their lives before graduating high school.
Pillars’ Buddy’s Place provides support groups and activities for children, teens, and their families who have experienced the death of someone significant in their lives. We provide programming to specifically address the grief of these families, while also providing presentations to schools and organizations that work with children. These services are free of charge thanks to the support of the Lyons Township Mental Health Commission and gifts from individuals, churches, foundations, clubs, organizations, and businesses.
When families first come to Buddy’s Place, the walk down the hall may feel quiet. But when they open the doors to the meeting room, they are greeted with the sounds of children buzzing around and adults connecting with one another. I’ve heard it described as a club they didn’t know existed. Often this provides a sense that they are not alone in their grief. While there is pain, hurt, sadness, and loneliness, there are also memories and shared stories that can bring joy and comfort. Families gain knowledge and, most of all, support. As we often say, “They come as strangers, but they leave as buddies.”
The National Alliance for Grieving Children also offers a list of programs that support grieving children.