News and Events

Helping Kids Talk About “Big Feelings”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing a loved one or coping with serious illness can be stressful for children, particularly those too young to effectively express emotions using words. Children may feel confused about experiencing multiple emotions at once, such as sadness and anger, or may have difficulty understanding that a bodily sensation can be an indicator of an emotion (such as restlessness caused by anxiety).

Most children also have limited experience with loss or tragic events, which further complicates their ability to process emotions. “Big feelings” are the powerful, confusing or overwhelming emotions that accompany these upsetting times.

Following are some simple, yet effective approaches to encourage your child to communicate about difficult emotions:

  • Initiate the conversation at a quiet, private time. Your child may be more likely to talk about difficult feelings if you approach them in private at a more relaxed time when you can talk one on one, such as at bedtime or when you are in the car together.
  • Model openness and vulnerability by speaking briefly about your own feelings. For example, “I noticed that ever since Grandma has been sick, I have been feeling sad and upset sometimes, and talking about it has helped me feel better. I wonder if you have been having big feelings, too.”
  • Say what you’re seeing, then check in. “It seems like you aren’t playing as much, and you don’t feel like eating dinner sometimes. Does it seem that way to you, too?”
  • Practice being fully present with your child. Begin by telling your child that you will listen to them without interrupting. Follow through by providing your full attention, showing your child with your eyes and body language that you are hearing them.
  • Let your child know that you are available to help, but without focusing on “fixing” the problem. We all have big feelings sometimes, especially in difficult situations related to loss or illness. Sometimes children respond positively if you offer to brainstorm together about ways to make the difficult situation feel a little easier. Other times, you may find that your child simply wants to be together and have their emotions acknowledged.

Some children may not want to open up verbally, and that’s okay; some children are more likely to demonstrate their emotions through behavior, expressive arts or other nonverbal ways to communicate.

Call Kids Path for a free phone consultation.

The licensed counselors at Kids Path are available by phone during business hours to talk with parents, caregivers, teachers or anyone in the community about how to best support a grieving child through loss or illness. Simply call 336. 544.5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.

Coping with a Terminal Diagnosis

“The opposite of hope is despair, and when we despair, it is because we feel there are no choices.”

Warren G. Bennis

Death is a part of life, but that doesn’t make it any less devastating to learn that you or your loved one’s illness is terminal. As you navigate this difficult time, know that terminal illness doesn’t have the power to take away the joy of living, you are not alone in your feelings and there is always hope to create joy and beauty in whatever time is left.

Receiving a terminal diagnosis

Depending on the circumstances of you or your loved one’s illness, you may have been prepared for a terminal diagnosis. If you were previously unaware of the illness’ severity (or even its existence), receiving this news may come as a complete shock.

How you process this difficult news is highly personal, but rest assured that whatever your reactions, they are entirely normal. Following are some of the feelings that you or your loved ones may experience in the wake of a terminal diagnosis:

  • shock
  • fear
  • anger
  • resentment
  • denial
  • helplessness
  • sadness
  • frustration
  • relief
  • acceptance

Any and all of these feelings are expected reactions to learning that you or your loved one is dying. News of a terminal illness may leave you feeling like you are utterly without hope. But whether you have days, weeks, months or years left, there is still time to bask in the joy and love that life has to offer. When time is limited, the quality of that time still holds immense potential.

Empowering yourself with information and resources

Once the initial shock of the diagnosis has somewhat subsided, you can empower yourself by gathering information and identifying resources to plan ahead. Your doctor can offer you information about the symptoms you are likely to expect as your illness progresses.

Following are some additional resources that may help:

Understanding palliative and hospice care

The purpose of both hospice and palliative care is to refocus on living. As your condition progresses, these services can help improve quality of life. Following are ways that palliative and hospice care can help dying patients enjoy the time they have left:

  • Comfort care and pain management.
  • Alternative therapies (horticultural, music and pet therapy).
  • Pastoral care and spiritual support.
  • Social work and counseling.
  • Symptom management.
  • Help with anxiety and restlessness.
  • Ability to stay at home (or in a long-term care or hospice facility).
  • Minimize (or even eliminate) stays at the hospital.
  • More time with family and friends.
  • Counseling and support for loved ones.

For a comprehensive directory of end-of-life resources, visit https://www.nhpco.org/resources/end-life-care–resources.

If you would like more information about palliative care, hospice care or counseling services, please contact Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro at 336.621.2500.

Additional resources:
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/end-of-life-care/coping-with-a-terminal-illness/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/grief/art-20047491

Should My Child Attend the Funeral?

Kids Path counselors are often asked, “Is it a good idea for my child to attend our loved one’s funeral or memorial service?” Our response to this question varies because each situation and child is unique; however, a few specific factors are helpful to consider.

Consider Your Child’s Age and Maturity Level

Toddlers, preschoolers and other young children may find a memorial event to be confusing or distressing, especially if they don’t understand what happened to their loved one.  They may be highly sensitive to the intense emotions present in the room. Alternatively, they may seem insensitive to the gravity of the occasion and behave in a way that is seen as inappropriate to onlookers.  When making your decision, consider how attending the event will affect them as well as whether their behavior may be disruptive to others.

Give Your Child a Choice

When possible, give children choices about their involvement in the memorial event. Help your child understand what to expect, including details about what they are likely to see and hear. Explain that some people may be sad or crying at the event, and validate that either crying or not crying is okay. Let your child know that you will have special time together after the event, whether that means going out for ice cream or simply making time to talk about how they are feeling.

By providing detailed expectations of the event beforehand, you are empowering your child to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. Whatever they decide, be sure to communicate your support and understanding.

Talk about Saying Goodbye

Some older children or teens who attend the event may want to speak or read something special as part of the service, but for others, this may be uncomfortable. Younger children can be given limited options for participation. For example, some families let children attend the memorial gathering but not the viewing or graveside service.

If your child chooses not to attend, brainstorm together about other ways to participate. Some children draw pictures or write letters for an adult to bring to the memorial service or burial.  Other children may find comfort in creating a separate ritual at home as a way of saying goodbye.

Make a Backup Plan

Due to the unpredictable and emotional nature of funerals and memorials, it is important to have a backup plan for attending the event. For younger children, it’s ideal to have an adult assigned to that child who can step outside with them if needed. With older children or teens, talk with them about their options if they need to leave early or take a break.

Kids Path Can Help You Support Your Grieving Child

Our licensed Kids Path counselors are available Monday through Friday to consult with parents or caregivers about the best ways to support a child coping with death or severe illness.

Call 336.544.5437 to speak with a Kids Path counselor.

 

 

 

HPCG and Greensboro Public Library Launch Community Read of “The Bright Hour”

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)–The Greensboro Public Library and Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) have teamed up to launch a Community Read of “The Bright Hour,” the bestselling memoir by local writer, Nina Riggs.

To kick off the Community Read, they will hold the event “Reflections on ‘The Bright Hour’: A Conversation with John Duberstein” on Tuesday, August 28 from 7-8:30 p.m. at the library’s central branch at 219 N. Church Street.

John Duberstein, widower of the author and a local attorney, will share his candid reflections on the book—as well as his experiences with love, loss and renewal.

Participants at the event can also learn more about reserving a free book set of “The Bright Hour” for their book club, faith community, long-term care community and other group. Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro can provide trained facilitators to lead group discussions on the book as well as end-of-life issues.

Riggs’ memoir takes place largely in Greensboro, NC during her final years as she faced breast cancer. It was published posthumously in 2017 to critical acclaim and commercial success. She was just 37 years old when initially diagnosed with “one small spot.” Within a year, the mother of two young sons and a wife of 16 years, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

Nina Riggs

“We encourage book clubs and civic organizations to add this book to their reading list this fall,” said Beth Sheffield, adult programming coordinator for the Greensboro Public Library. “’The Bright Hour’ is a book about living and loving as much as it is about dying.”

For more information about this event or the Community Read, contact Tammy Chaput at 336.621.5565 or thecenter@hospicegso.org  

About HPCG

HPCG, a nonprofit organization serving Guilford County and surrounding areas since 1980, is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. HPCG provides physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit www.hospicegso.org.

 

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Supporting a Bereaved Person through Traumatic Loss

In the wake of a sudden, unexpected or otherwise traumatic loss, effectively supporting a bereaved person can seem difficult or even impossible. People who lose a loved one in such a profoundly tragic way experience grief differently than those whose loved one dies a more natural death. The bereaved person may be dazed, in disbelief or inconsolable.

Depending on your relationship with this person, how involved you feel you can be in supporting them through grief may vary. However, rest assured that despite your connection to the bereaved person, you can help support them through this impossible time.

If the bereaved is an acquaintance

  • Get involved on social media. Post comments or send messages that are simple but show you’re thinking of them. Examples of such messages may include:
    • I am so sorry for your loss.
    • My family and I are thinking of you during this trying time.
    • (Their loved one) was a wonderful person. I was lucky to know them.
  • If the obituary lists a charity, consider making a donation in their loved one’s name. Even a gift as small as $10 or $20 makes an impact to a bereaved person.

If the bereaved is a friend

  • Reach out via text or phone call to check in on the person. Engage them in conversation without pressuring them for details. Following are some talking points:
    • How are you coping right now?
    • Are there any errands that I can run for you to take some pressure off (laundry, shopping, etc.)?
    • Can I bring you some dinner?
    • I know what you’re going through is incredibly difficult. I am here for you.
  • Consider attending the funeral for their loved one. The best way to help your friend is by showing support, even if you weren’t close to the person they lost.
  • Typically, the bereaved person will have a close friend or family member step into a role of caregiving immediately after the loss. Consider coordinating your efforts to help through that caregiver, as they are likely to know what is needed most.
  • Remember that the most difficult things for a bereaved person in the wake of a traumatic loss are often the simple, mundane tasks, such as cleaning, cooking, driving, showering and eating. Find ways to support your friend in establishing a healthy routine while they process their grief.
  • In the wake of a traumatic loss, the bereaved person may not want to be left alone. Consider enlisting other close friends and family in creating a visiting schedule, so that there is the comforting consistency of a familiar, loving presence for your friend.

If you or someone you know has recently suffered a traumatic loss, please contact HPCG’s Counseling and Education Center at 336.621.2500 to learn more about support groups and bereavement counseling.

Jeanine M. Falcon Joins HPCG as Vice President of Human Resources

Jeanine M. Falcon

(GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA)—Jeanine M. Falcon, Ed.S., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, has joined Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG) as its vice president of human resources. Previously, Falcon served as the vice president of human resources at Replacements, Ltd.

She has been working as a leadership consultant and coach since 2015. This past April, Falcon was recognized with an Outstanding Women in Business award from Triad Business Journal.

“It is such a privilege to support the profound work of these hospice and palliative care teams,” said Falcon. “I have a passion for the nonprofit arena and hope my experience can complement this valuable and admired community resource.”

Falcon’s involvement in the community is extensive. She currently serves on the board of Triad Health Project as well as the Guilford Green Foundation Advisory Board. She has held previous roles with the City of Greensboro Chamber of Commerce as well as the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ).

“Jeanine is a dynamic human resources executive with a wealth of knowledge in team building, change management, conflict management and strategic decision-making,” said Kristen Yntema, president and CEO of HPCG. “I’m very excited to have her aboard.”

HPCG is a nonprofit organization that serves an average of 350 patients per day in Guilford County and surrounding areas. It is situated on a 14.75 acre campus at 2500 Summit Avenue. Since 1980, HPCG has been providing physical, emotional and spiritual support for children and adults faced with a life-limiting illness, as well as their caregivers and families. For more information, call 336.621.2500 or visit www.hospicegso.org.

 

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Staying Connected After a Loss

Every loss is different. But whether it’s sudden or expected, peaceful or turbulent, an acquaintance or a close relative, all losses have something in common: there’s always more to say.

For a child or teen, not being able to communicate their thoughts and feelings directly to the person they lost can be frustrating. In addition, depending on the child’s age and their previous experience with death, the idea of someone being “gone” may be frightening or confusing.

Helping a child find ways to remain connected to their loved one can be an invaluable therapeutic tool. The death of a special person does not truly end a child’s relationship with that person, but it can take time to discover a different way to stay connected and build a new relationship.

At Kids Path, we recommend following your child’s lead and respecting their own unique way of grieving.  Following are ways that some families might choose to recognize and celebrate a child’s ongoing connection with someone who has died.

  • Invite your child to participate in creating a photo album or digital collage of special photos. Your child may also request to have a special photo placed in their bedroom where it can be a comfort when falling asleep.
  • Make a book of stories and drawings about happy memories.
  • Create a memory box for special items.
  • Write letters to the person. It’s best for adults to explain honestly that there may not be a physical way to deliver the message to that person, and ask for the child’s suggestions about what should happen to the letters.
  • Help your child start a private journal addressed to the person, where they can write entries to their loved one.
  • Begin a new family ritual, such as lighting a candle at the dinner table that represents the family’s ongoing connection with the person who died. For young children, explain that even though we will blow out the real candle, our love for the person still continues in our hearts.
  • Invite your child to enjoy the loved one’s favorite music or movie together.
  • For upcoming special occasions such as holidays or your special person’s birthday, talk with your child or teen about how they would like to remember the person that day. Some families choose to keep one special aspect of a celebration the same while also adding a new tradition into the mix.
  • Talk with your faith leader about how to answer your child’s spiritual questions.

For guidance in supporting a specific child through grief, contact Kids Path at 336.544.5437.

Finding Your “New Normal” After a Loss

When will life go back to normal?

When will I stop randomly crying?

When will I have my energy back?

When will I feel like going out again?

When will I be me again?

Everyone grieves differently, and if you find yourself wondering when you will feel like “you” again, there isn’t a clear answer. Truthfully, you will never be the same person you were prior to your loss. Living through the death of someone you love is profoundly changing, and loss doesn’t allow itself to be forgotten.

However, rest assured that you will laugh again, you will enjoy life again, and you will feel a profound sense of self again. The pain of your loss will still be present, but it will be just a small part of who you are.

The grieving process operates on a unique and personal timeline. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the ability to put life on “pause” in the aftermath of a loss. In the days and weeks following the loss of your loved one, you will most likely be expected to return to work and other daily commitments as normal. You may have difficulty being productive at work, socializing with friends or keeping up with day-to-day tasks as you attempt to manage your grief.

Likewise, you may find that those around you don’t fully appreciate the lasting emotional effect of a profound loss, or the amount of time that it takes for you to return to functioning “as normal.”

Adjusting to your new normal means balancing grief with the realities of everyday life. Here are some tips that can help you be effective at work and home while still allowing yourself to grieve:

  • Take time for yourself.

Find small moments to be alone, take deep breaths, and even cry. You may find it helpful to change up your environment every so often (take a walk, work outside, etc.) so that you feel in-control and have time to process your thoughts.

  • Make lists.

When your mental list of to-dos starts becoming cluttered and overwhelming, put it on paper! You can separate tasks by type (work tasks, chores, errands), or even make a schedule so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting something.

  • Set boundaries.

If people are asking more of you than you can handle, don’t be afraid to set limits on what you’re willing to do.  Attempting to accomplish more than you are capable of will inevitably end badly. If you are honest up front, everyone will be happier (yourself included!)

 

If you are grieving, call 336.621.2500 to speak with one of HPCG’s licensed bereavement counselors.

Teens Grieve Differently: What You Need to Know

Teenagers are in a time of transition between adulthood and childhood as they gain skills to navigate academic responsibilities, peer relationships and changing family roles. When a significant loss occurs, teens can sometimes react in ways that are surprising to adults.

Because of the developmental challenges that teens are already experiencing, it is important for adult family members to recognize that teens may need a different type of support than younger children.

Key Ideas in Supporting Teens through Grief

  1. Offer opportunities to share feelings.

Teens may not always feel like talking about the loss, but it can be reassuring when adults give them an opening to discuss their experience. In particular, teens may need to express grief about “what might have been” and the upcoming milestones that will be different after this loss, such as high school graduation. You can encourage your teen to find other ways to express their thoughts and emotions, such as writing in a journal, drawing or talking to a trusted friend.

  1. Be affectionate.

Teens may seem to reject any affection from family members, such as hugs or nicknames— especially in public or in front of peers. Your teen may want to feel close to you in a time of loss, yet feel embarrassed about this need. It is up to the adult to make a gesture by offering a hug or saying, “I love you.” Some family members may choose to occasionally text their teen a simple message: “Thinking of you, hope you’re having a good day at school.”

  1. Invite input into family grief decisions.

Offer your teen a choice about attending or contributing to the memorial service. Teens frequently prefer to have a vote in other significant family decisions about the loss, such as how to mark the first anniversary of a death.

When Does My Teen Need Grief Support?

Grief counseling may be recommended in some loss situations, such as:

  • Unexpected death and/or a loss that the teen experiences as traumatic.
  • Complicating factors such as addiction, mental illness or ongoing family conflict.
  • A loss that triggered major life changes, such as moving or financial hardship.
  • The need to resolve a difficult or inconsistent relationship with the person who died.
  • Multiple recent deaths or other significant losses.

Please seek professional help if your teen seems to be exhibiting warning signs of mental health concerns, such as a sudden personality change, loss of interest in favorite activities, extreme irritability, frequent tearfulness, persistent sadness or hopelessness and/or suicidal thoughts.

Kids Path Can Help with Teen Grief Support

The Kids Path program provides individual counseling for children and teens through age 18, in addition to support groups and events where teens can meet peers who have also experienced loss.

Our licensed counselors are available to consult with parents or caregivers about the best way to support your teen in coping with death or serious illness.

Call 336.544.5437 and ask to speak with any counselor.

Does My Child Need Grief Counseling?

Grief is a natural human response to change, death and impending loss. Because grief can be so painful and overwhelming, it often frightens us. Many people worry if they are grieving “the right way” and wonder if their feelings and reactions are normal. Children are no exception to the turmoil of the grieving process, but their reactions and feelings may be difficult for adults to understand.

Children, who are still in the midst of mental, psychological, spiritual and emotional development, often react to grief very differently than adults. It falls to the parents, caregivers and counselors to recognize how the child is coping during this difficult time so that they can provide needed support.

Although there is no “rulebook” for how children should grieve, certain types of reactions to grief are common in preschool and school-age children.  Other less common reactions may be a sign that your child needs more support, perhaps with a professional grief counselor. Following are examples of common behaviors that you can expect to see in grieving children, in addition to warning signs that may indicate that a child is in need of grief counseling.

 

Common Reactions to Grief in Children:

Emotional Reactions

  • Shock and disbelief—the death seems like a bad dream that will not go away.
  • Confusion or absent-mindedness.
  • Longing for what used to be.
  • Withdrawal and avoidance of others.
  • Numbness or moodiness.

Physical Reactions

  • Changes in appetite or eating habits.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Fatigue or lack of energy.

Behavioral Reactions

  • Sudden change in school performance or behavior.
  • Periodic loss of interest in schoolwork or favorite activity.
  • Apathy and lack of motivation.
  • Explosive emotions, upsetting and difficult to control.

 

Warning Signs/Complicating Factors Indicating a Need for Grief Counseling:

  • Poor relationship and communication between child and parent.
  • Other losses have occurred recently.
  • Death causes relocation or other significant lifestyle changes.
  • Child won’t discuss the death with trusted adults.
  • Death was unexpected, abrupt or traumatic.
  • Terminal illness that involves significant physical or mental changes in the loved one.
  • Death has been concealed or not explained.
  • Child expresses persistent obsessive thoughts and preoccupation with the deceased.
  • Persistent loss of interest in schoolwork or favorite activity.
  • Sudden personality changes (for example, an outgoing child becomes unusually withdrawn).
  • Frequent irritability or unexplained crying.
  • Preoccupation with pain, death or suicide.

Typical grief reactions can vary depending on a specific child’s age and social/cognitive development. Kids Path counselors are available to consult with any parent, caregiver or school about how best to support a child with loss related to death or severe illness.

Call 336.544.5437 and ask to speak with a counselor.