Column 142

 

The little girl is 4 when her mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. She is 9 when her mom dies. Her mom dies at home just after the little girl has been sent outside to play.

Two children are adopted by their kind aunt who blends these kids with her own after their parents die in a car crash.

A teenage brother becomes an only child when his older brother commits suicide. He's 14. His brother was 17.

And on and on and on. Children the world over experience grief, just as adults do. But children's grief is complicated and often unacknowledged. And those children grow to adults and become parents and carry with them the fear, the judgement, the insecurity of having lost a part of themselves when they were young.

It's because of this that an entire day, Wednesday April 29, is being devoted to grief and helping kids move to the other side of grief.

Building Resilient Children is the name of the day. Four speakers, each with incredible messages to share, will focus on tools that help kids move through the bad stuff and incorporate it into their lives.

The day, sponsored by the Seasons Centre for Grieving Children and Stewart Esten Law Firm, is designed for family doctors, mental health professionals, family health teams, school counsellors and teachers, parents and grandparents, youth leaders, sports coaches, day care providers, people who come into contact with children. Churches, palliative care people, paediatricians, private counsellors and therapists, the list is endless. The seating, however, is limited to 200. The function occurs at Liberty North on Caplan AV in Barrie. It runs from 9am to 4 pm with lunch included. Cost is modest at $100 per person. Tickets can be bought at Seasons at 38 McDonald St, behind the library or online at: https://barrie.snapd.com/#/events/view/810531

This is expected to sell out and here's why. Speakers for this event include:

1. Dr Patrick Carney, at 9:15 to 11:30. Author of a new book on children's resiliency, he is the chief psychologist with the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

2. John Rice, Anishinabe/Ojibway healer, will speak over the working lunch, from 12 noon to 1 pm. He'll discuss integrating native traditions into grief coping styles.

3. Dr Peter Marshall specializes in child development and has authored a number of books. He'll speak from 1:15 to 3:30 pm.

4. Final speaker for the day is Joe Roberts, motivational speaker who went from skid row to CEO. He incorporates his experiences as a drug addict, a kid at the bottom, into his discussions on making good choices.

Bereavement specialist Kathi Kelly works with kids of all ages at the Seasons Centre. She knows first hand how important it is for young people to find a process, a place for grief, and a place for the parent, sibling, grandparents, friend who has died.

"Kids who have time to prepare suffer in a different way than kids who don't have time. There is less shock, less despair, though it's certainly present." She also says it takes a few years to process grief, and it's extra difficult if the parents of the child don't do their own grief work and 'get their act together.'

Where did he go? Do they still love me? Will they still take care of me? Who will watch over me? Will I see them again? Kathi says these are some of the questions that kids have, whether they express them or not. She says it's important for each child to develop their own belief, their own piece of magic about the loved one who is gone. A Seasons program called "What About Me?" helps kids prepare for death when there's been a terminal diagnosis.

Kathi says kids worry that they will also die and that nobody will remember them. They are ready victims for bullying, which happens more than you would expect.

While Seasons programs go from age 4 to age 18, there are programs for parents, too. These kids are out in the community. They go to school. They attend brownies and boy scouts. They take swimming lessons. They may be in foster care. They may be in hospital. They may be in day care or before and after school care.

The challenge is to help them move through and forward to resilient lives.

And that's what April 29 is all about. It's a remarkable opportunity, right here in our own community, to spend a day learning how you can make a difference that will have a lifelong ripple effect.

Thanks, Stewart Esten for seeing the importance of this. Thanks, Seasons, for making it happen.

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