It’s important to remember that children grieve differently than adults

Vivian Dodge, Executive Director of Chapters Health Hospice, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the work the organization does.

One aspect of hospice is how it affects the children.

Dodge said, “I am excited to announce that Chapters Health Hospice has a new children’s bereavement program. Just as a quick recap, we offer hospice and bereavement to the family for up to 13 months after someone dies. That’s open to Monroe County residents as well, even if they haven’t been served under hospice. But what we identified over the last few years is that there is such a need for children’s bereavement here in Monroe County. One in 11 kids in Florida experiences the death of either a parent or a sibling by the age of 18. I’m not talking relatives, aunts, grandparents, just parent or sibling. That’s, I think, a significant number. So we’re very happy to have this new children’s bereavement program.”

Children most certainly grieve as well.

Dodge said, “We think it’s important. There are two facets. One is that if we’re serving a hospice patient, and they have kids in the home, our bereavement coordinator is already working with those children’s anticipatory grief prior to the patient dying. But we’re expanding this program into Monroe County Schools, our local referring agencies, parents and guardians because children grieve differently than adults and a lot of times we don’t realize that. Our goal is let’s help the children and the teens restore some hope, and also to raise awareness of childhood grief, and perhaps equip the family and the public to support a child that is grieving, because their grief looks so much different than an adult’s.”

How so?

Dodge said, “Grief in children and teens manifests itself differently. So there might be behavioral issues. They might misbehave, they start acting out. Maybe their school studies take a dive, they’re just not performing well in school. They become very isolated or withdrawn. With a dedicated children’s bereavement program, our bereavement counselor is tapping into those strategies, coping skills that are age appropriate, elementary, middle, and teen. Unfortunately, many of our teens in high school have experienced the loss of a friend through suicide or a car accident. So it’s quite an interesting phenomenon that we’re seeing in the Keys. Our goal is really to be a partner with the school counselors as an adjunct to them. They do a wonderful job with maybe school studies, but the underlying thing could be maybe that it’s grief that they haven’t addressed, and that’s where our counselor has the expertise to help both the school counselors and that child and the family.”

Services are available to those who haven’t been serviced by hospice in the past.

Dodge said, “All of our services are free to the public, for anyone in Monroe County. That’s especially important for kids and families. Many of those deaths weren’t served under hospice, but the child is suffering or experiencing a loss and is not doing well. If the school counselors and my bereavement coordinator can work together, then we can work to help that child too and it’s free. She’ll meet them at school, she can meet them one on one, wherever the parent consents. We can meet them at lunch, at school. So we have a variety of ways that we can work with the Monroe County school system, as well as parents and guardians.”

How can people find out more and ask further questions?

Dodge said, “First and foremost, you can always call us here at our office 305-396-8100 and I can connect you with our bereavement coordinator. If you have any questions, call us. We’ll send you information. We’re here in the community for resources and support, and I would like to just put the word out again, know us before you need us. We can be a wealth of information prior to your loved one coming on hospice. We work with all the community physicians. We take the scary out of the unknown and I think that’s the beauty of my hospice team and working with our community.”