While it is an honor to be able to be a part of this difficult time in a family’s life, bereavements are always difficult in a pediatric setting. They’re of course difficult for the grieving family, they’re difficult for the staff, and they’re difficult for me. No matter what anyone says/does, this is the worst day in this family’s life. Our role as child life specialists is to provide support to the grieving family. This may be by simply sitting with the patient’s mother and listening to her vent, this may be by helping the family create a memory box for the patient, or even just providing tissues and tea. Every bereavement is different as are the needs of each family. During my time in NICU I have found some incredible resources that I’ve been able to offer grieving families.
Angel Gowns NICU Helping Hands’ Angel Gown® Program began in 2013 because we recognized there was an overwhelming need for better support for families who lost a baby. Our Angel Gown® Program provides comfort for bereaved families through the gift of a beautiful custom-made gown for final photos and for burial services.
I was touched when I received my shipment of Angel Gowns by seeing how much detail was put into the gowns. They’re made from donated wedding dresses and come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest being an “Angel Wrap” for those angels that are too small to clothe, up to extra-large size for infants. The gowns come in individual boxes with a flyer from NICU Helping Hands of various support services they offer grieving families. The gowns are also open in the back with the option to tie, much like a hospital gown.
Angel Gown for a girl
Angel Gown for a boy
Angel Wrap for a girl
Teeny Tears Teeny Tears is a service organization that provides tiny flannel diapers at no charge to hospitals and bereavement support organizations for families that have suffered the loss of a preemie or micropreemie child through stillbirth or NICU loss.
Teeny Tears are another great resource which offer cloth diapers/hats and blanket for the loss of preemies/micropreemies. What I love most about Teeny Tears is that each bundle comes with two diapers and two hats; one for the baby to keep and one for the family to keep.
I have also created an Amazon list of other items I’ve used for bereavements. Click here: http://a.co/iwUT1Zt
Over the weekend I volunteered at Camp Erin, a bereavement camp for children and teens that have experienced the loss of a loved one. Because I am a CCLS, I was a “clinical point person” at the camp – someone that the children in my group could turn to if they were feeling overwhelmed or wanted to discuss some deeper emotions that they were feeling. My group consisted of nine 6-8 year old girls (yes, VERY young)! We did art therapy, music therapy, and even pet therapy! All with the goals of identifying emotions and learning about our feelings as well as doing nice things for our loved one. One important thing that I noticed this camp provided was the opportunity for these children to realize that other kids go through this too & that they are not alone in their grief. It was so heartwarming to see the girls comfort eachother and really connect with the activities that we were doing.
Camp Erin was an amazing experience and I definitely encourage all of you Child Life-ers out there to volunteer! If not as a clinical point person, then as a Cabin Big Buddy! It’s great experience (& will look so impressive on any application/resume)!
At the end of this month I will be spending the weekend volunteering at Camp Erin – a bereavement camp for children. This past weekend we had a pre-camp pizza party to meet all of the campers, their families, and help reduce some of that pre-camp anxiety that usually builds in the weeks before sleep-away camp. We had a lot of fun at our pizza party – we played games, got to know each other, had pizza (of course), and sang songs while the veteran volunteers spoke to the parents/caregivers about specifics about camp. When speaking to one of the 6-year-old girls in my group, she told me all about this Elmo video she watched that “explained about when people die and that it’s okay to cry”. This Elmo grief video rang a bell, but I decided to do some more research when I got home. Turns out, Sesame Street offers their resources for free to download online, in English and Spanish! This is such an incredible resource to know about when dealing with bereavement and grief with children. Thank you, chatty little 6-year-old!
Camp Erin : https://www.moyerfoundation.org/programs/camperin.aspx
Elmo Grief Resources: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/tlc/griefresources
Image Source: http://www.sesamestreet.org/muppets/elmo
I came across this documentary this weekend on HBO. I definitely recommend it! It gives great insight to bereavement camps and the way children view death. According to my U-Verse info, it will be available until May 12, 2014.
“Teeny Tears ~ Teeny Tears is a service organization of volunteers that provides tiny flannel bereavement diapers to hospitals and bereavement support organizations at no charge for families that have suffered the loss of a preemie or micropreemie child through stillbirth or NICU loss.”