Local businesses partner to help grieving children

When a loved one dies, a lot of attention naturally goes toward that individual — honoring their life and ensuring their end-of-life intentions are fulfilled.

Survivors can become an afterthought, especially children who might seem like they’re okay but only because they haven’t yet learned how to understand and properly cope with death.

A new resource is now being made available locally to children who are grieving and learning to cope with the loss of a loved one through a partnership between National Guardian Life Insurance Company (NGL) and Thysse Printing Service. Through their collaboration, Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care received 500 copies of When Someone Dies: A Child-Caregiver Activity Book created by the National Alliance for Grieving Children.

According to Maria Lubick, corporate communications specialist for NGL, the National Alliance for Grieving Children collaborated with grief experts, grief centers, and children’s hospitals to gather ideas and/or activities to create the book, which is designed to provide a space where children can remember their loved one who died, identify their own strengths, and connect with their caregiver about grief.

“The activity book provides children and their caregivers with opportunities to interact in positive, healthy ways, while still acknowledging their grief and how to cope with the changes after the loss of someone they love,” says Lubick. “It is an activity book that children can work on alone or with their caregivers. Each activity has suggestions for the caregiver on how they can help children who are grieving. Each child has their own way to cope with grief, so every activity will impact children differently.”

The activity book is filled with pages for bereaved children to draw pictures, play games, and map their feelings. It is designed to guide them as they remember their loved one, learn about the concept of loss and grief, and realize that it’s okay to be happy again.

“My father passed away when I was 12 years old,” notes JJ Giese, sales and marketing at Thysse Printing. “I still vividly remember a lot of downtime while my mother sorted out important details and my brother and I wondered what would happen next. While this activity book will initially help by passing awkward minutes, coping with a myriad of emotions, and working bravely toward a new normal, I expect a high percentage will be maintained as keepsakes.”

The book is divided into five sections:

  • Understanding death and remembering with ritual
  • What is grief like?
  • My support … how I cope with grief
  • Grief at school and with friends
  • Special days and remembering my special person

Lubick says some of the activities including in the book are:

  • Favorite things — This activity allows children to write down their favorite activities and the favorite activities of the person who died. It helps a child identify with person who died, but know that they should still be themselves. It is an opportunity to talk with the child about what makes them unique, and allows the caregiver to plan activities around the child’s favorite things to help develop a strong, trusting relationship.
  • Remembering your person — Memories are a way to stay to connected, but they can also be difficult. On one side of the page the child is asked to draw or list memories that are difficult for them to think about. On the other side of the page the child is asked to draw favorite memories of their person. This activity helps the child remember their best times alongside the unpleasant times — the funeral or watching their person’s illness progress, etc. — and opens the channels of communication between the child and caregiver.
  • A map of grief — This make believe adventure game allows children to follow a map and label their grief in areas, including volcano of anger, sea of tears, great fog of forgetting, island of loneliness, and more. Because children often express their grief through play, they can draw and write on the colorful map to create their own adventure.

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“Losing a loved one is difficult at any age,” notes Jill Muenich, vice president of marketing services at NGL. “I can’t imagine how challenging it is for someone who doesn’t fully understand the concept of death. When I learned that more than 300 kids each year have had someone they love at Agrace, I knew this book could greatly benefit them.

“Our company believes in giving back to help people in our community,” Muenich continues. “I’m pleased that NGL could partner with Thysse Printing and that our efforts will make a difference during a difficult time in a child’s life.”

Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care has already started utilizing the children’s activity books to encourage discussion after the loss of a loved one. The activity books will be used in all of Agrace’s service areas — now 11 counties in southern Wisconsin.

“In addition to providing hospice and palliative care to patients, Agrace also provides free grief support to anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one,” explains Cheri Milton, community grief support specialist at Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care. “This support is free and available to any community member whether or not the deceased was an Agrace patient. This child/parent grief workbook is an excellent resource and will be helpful to many. We are so thankful to NGL and Thysse Printing for their generous donation that enables us to offer this resource to those in need.”

In conjunction to offsetting half of the cost for printing the books, NGL donated $2,500 to National Alliance for Grieving Children to produce copies of the book. Resources and educational opportunities are available through the National Alliance for Grieving Children for anyone who is supporting grieving children and teens.

Organizations interested in learning more about the activity book or how they can print copies can go to National Alliance for Grieving Children at ChildrenGrieve.org or contact CEO Andy McNiel at andy.mcniel@childrengrieve.org.

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