Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Concerning Children and Grief- Did You Know?

Did You Know? 

According to the US Social Security Administration, 1.9 million youth under the age of 18 have lost one or both parents.

A parent’s death usually makes a severe impact on the child, research shows.  After losing a parent, 85% of children exhibit such symptoms as difficulty sleeping, angry outbursts, worry, depression, bed-wetting, and thumb-sucking.  After a year, more regressive behaviors may fade, but other problems, such as lack of confidence and preoccupation with illness, are likely to continue. (Barr-Harris Children’s Grief Center of Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis as reported in Chicago Tribune Magazine.)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of every 20 children age 15 and younger will suffer the loss of one or both parents.  These statistics do not account for the number of children who lose a “parental figure,” such as a grandparent or other relative that provide care.

The number of single parent homes has skyrocketed, displacing many children in this country.  Approximately 30% of U.S. families are now being headed by a single parent, and in 80% of those families, the mother is the sole parent.  The United States is the world’s leader in fatherless families.  Father absence contributes to crime and delinquency.  Violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up without fathers. (U.S. Census Bureau report)

Lastly, children of divorced parents are seven times more likely to suffer from depression in adult life than people of similar age and background whose parents have not divorced.  (Study by Bernard Lerer and Ofer Agid of the Biological Psychiatric Unit at Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, as reported in Molecular Psychiatry, 1999)

These facts are discouraging.  However, we should not despair.  As a society we have made great strides in understanding the impact of loss on grief on children’s lives.  Places like Rick’s House of Hope, local hospice organizations and others provide services for grieving children, including support groups and camp experiences.  It now falls to you – the parent, the grandparent, the aunt or uncle to reach out for the help that is there for the child you love.  It’s okay to ask for help.  You can’t do this alone.  You are hurting, too.  Good luck and God bless. Keep reading to learn more about Rick’s House of Hope!!! 

Celebrating Rick's House of Hope

   On Saturday, February 4th, nine members of the Reinbeck United Methodist Church travelled to Davenport, Iowa for a Mission/Work Day at Rick’s House of Hope-Center for Grieving and Traumatized Children.  The mission of RHOH is to make sure the needs of grieving and traumatized youth are not overlooked.  This mission is very dear to my heart.  You see, in 1999 when RHOH was founded it was the culmination of a dream and vision I had carried in my heart for over a decade.  Rick’s House of Hope was my creation and I served as Founding Director for seven years.  

   Rick’s House of Hope began as a seed of an idea when our son was born with a serious, congenital heart defect.  As we struggled through the earliest days of Richie’s life wondering just what the future would really hold I was keenly aware of how devastated I would be if my baby did not survive.  I could not imagine how I would ever help our daughter, then just three years old, with that kind of loss.  I began to think “there out to be a place” where children suffering the loss of a parent or sibling could go to find the support their grieving parents likely could not give.  I started pursuing continuing education courses on grief and bereavement, and whenever possible, courses about children and grief.
   Years passed.  We had many scares and many trips to the emergency room with Richie.  Eventually and over the course of time he has received three cardiac ablations through the University of Iowa Hospital.  Overall, however, God has been good and Richie has been a blessing to our family every day.  He has made us laugh more than we could imagine.  He has shown grace and strength when we would have crumbled.  Yes, God has been good.
   Had I tried to force the vision of a children’s grief center on my timeline, I’m quite sure RHOH would not have been the success that it has been.  God unfolded the dream in His time.  I kept learning; kept dreaming; kept gaining professional experience.  One day in the Bettendorf Public Library I sat down to play around with this new thing everyone was talking about –The Internet.  On the desk was a large book, like a Yellow Pages Directory.  You could literally look up websites by subject.  I looked up “children and grief” and discovered there were a few places around the country doing just what I had been dreaming of.  Erin’s House in Indiana and Dougy Center in Oregon were especially exciting to read about.  I moved out of the dream phase and into concrete planning.