One in six children will experience the death of a loved one by age eighteen. Often times, the occurrence of loss is much greater for children living in lower-socioeconomic communities. Many of these children have experienced multiple traumatic losses and are often not given the chance to resolve one grief experience before having to deal with another loss. A significant percentage of these children are dealing with unimaginable pain and may not be adequately supported by family, friends, or school personnel. When a child experiences multiple losses without the presence of a strong support system, there is an increased potential for complicated grief and negative long-term effects (The Wendt Center, 2009).
Research has shown that 50% of the youth under age 21 in an urban inner city were found to experience the sudden unexpected death of a close relative or friend (www.acaringhand.org), it is evident that these grief counseling groups are desperately needed in many of our local schools. Many of these children are denied access to grief support, due to a variety of reasons including financial constraints, lack of transportation, or absence of available services. When children are given the opportunity to express themselves in a safe environment, then they can begin healing. And, when grief is fully processed, the likelihood of damaging effects significantly decreases.
There is no other program in our community that is offering grief support services in local schools. We take quality grief counseling services directly to the students where they are – in the schools. We use space available at the school that is safe and enables our professionals to have confidential and meaningful conversations about their feelings. To date, we have offered grief support services to nearly 500 children ages 5 to 18 through this program.