At the age of 18, I moved away from home to pursue a college career. I knew that I would meet new friends, make great memories, and learn a lot. Little did I know how much I would learn.
During my freshman year a bright eyed adventurous friend posed the idea that we apply for internships in Washington D.C. Not wanting to reject any new friend, I agreed and off we went the upcoming summer. Together, we thought we could take on the world. Our summer in D.C. ended and we rallied together again as suite-mates our sophomore year. Things were off to a great start and we had not a care in the world.
That all changed on December 1, when Rebecca never returned home from Thanksgiving break. She died on her way back to college in a car accident. At that time, I had no idea the impact it would have. Our entire circle fell apart. We had some who had incredible anxiety, others who could not continue their college career, and some who still 15 years later have trouble dealing with the loss. With all of our different ways of dealing with grief, we had two things in common: we experienced a loss and there was a lack of guided support.
How Grief Affects Children
When a death occurs, it is a frightening disruption in the lives of both children and adults. Death changes the way that we function and often children and teens become “the forgotten mourners.” I became a “forgotten mourner”.
However, I was not alone even though it felt that way. According to the National Alliance of Grieving Children, 1 in 20 children will lose a parent by the age of 15. This is a staggering number and does not discriminate by geography, race, religion or creed. Studies show that 85 percent of these children suffer from depression, anxiety, appetite problems, and issues in their academic work.
As life moved on, the grief became more dull, yet never dealt with in a healthy way. Until I joined Hospice Family Care family in 2013. A program of Hospice Family Care I became involved with is The Caring House.
How The Caring House Can Help
The Caring House provides a safe place for youth ages 3-18 and their families to cope with the death of a loved one and share their grief experiences with others. This wonderful program recently relocated from Hospice Family Care headquarters to a restored 1950s bungalow on Longwood Drive in Huntsville’s Medical District. It’s the first free-standing location for The Caring House, and it’s designed to be a safe, kid-friendly place to talk and to grieve.
We recognize that grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a loved one – for children as well as adults. The duration and intensity of grief is unique for each individual. Within each of us is the natural capacity to heal – acceptance and caring facilitate that healing process.
We have found the children we serve at The Caring House perform better in school, have a reduction in anxiety, depression and learn that they are not alone. They have support here and a safe place to go.
The Caring House is vital in helping children through the grief process. We have three pillars for the child:
- To understand a death occurred
- To realize and understand grief – that it is unique and that everyone grieves differently
- To enable them to go on living life in a healthy way
We have seen time and again that when children work through these phases of grief in a healthy way, they are more likely to do well in school, and grow up to serve our community as productive adults.
Finally, 15 years later, I was able to learn healthy ways to deal with my grief.
There is a desperate need in our nation, state, and community to serve these children, and the first step in that service is making the community aware of programs that exist. One in 20 of your community’s children have lost a loved one – let’s make sure they are aware of The Caring House, so they can go on, not living in their grief, but truly living.
The Caring House Details
Address: 203 Longwood Drive SW Huntsville, AL 35801
Phone: (256) 650-1212
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