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Understanding Grief in Children & Teens

Teens grieve with family

When Beth was 13, her father died of pancreatic cancer.  Shortly afterward, she began to feel overwhelmed with many things such as difficulty concentrating on her school assignments, general fatigue, increased irritability and arguing with her two younger siblings and her mother.  Zach was eight when his mother died suddenly from a drug overdose.  He struggled to understand “why she had to die” as he strove to adjust to the many changes of living with his grandparents.

Children and teens often feel alone with their grief.  Many feel sorrow, sadness, anger, confusion and longing for their loved one while at the same time struggling to make necessary adjustments caused by the loss.  Sensitivity about being viewed as “different” can prevent them from feeling comfortable in expressing feelings to their friends.  Sometimes children and teens are hesitant to show their feelings to other family members because they do not want to “upset them or make them cry.” Individual grief counseling provides a safe environment where they can express their thoughts and feelings about the loss.

At the Pathways of Hope Grief Center, individual grief counseling sessions are available to children and teens and can include art therapy activities that are related to grief.  These art activities provide a fun and creative way to express thoughts and feelings about death and how they are coping.  Art can also be a creative way to make objects that help maintain cherished memories as well as honor the life of their loved one.

One of the powerful qualities of art making is that it does not rely on words to communicate difficult feelings and experiences.  This quality makes it especially healing for children and teens, many of which may not have the vocabulary to express their feelings and experiences in words or are often uncomfortable talking about their grief.  One does not need to be artistically gifted to benefit.  These art activities also provide their parent(s) or guardian an object that is like a “window to the soul,” allowing them to better understand and support their child.

If you think your child or teen would benefit from art therapy and individual grief counseling, or attending our mutigenerational art therapy group Art Forever After, please call the Pathways of Hope Grief Center at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton at 937-258-4991.

Article written by Jonathan Haag, Art Therapist at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton.

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Get to Know our Interdisciplinary Care Team!

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Hospice care is a holistic approach to end-of-life care that addresses the physical, social and spiritual needs of patients. Our interdisciplinary team is committed to providing the highest possible quality of life for patients. Our hospice team includes the talents and expertise of many to achieve that goal. The team includes:

Physicians: Our doctors are certified specialists in hospice and palliative care. Their expertise is in managing symptoms and developing personalized solutions for patients. They work directly with the primary care physician to address the needs of patients and provide support to families.

Nurse Care Managers: Our nursing staff monitor and address the changing needs of patients and provide education to patients and families. They focus on symptom control and improving quality of life by coordinating a wide range of support to benefit patients and families.

Personal Care Specialists: Our expert team of Personal Care Specialists provides assistance with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, eating, light housekeeping and more.  They are essential to the quality of life our patients enjoy.

Chaplains: Our chaplains deliver spiritual support for patients from a starting point of respect for the personal beliefs of each individual. Our chaplains honor and encourage their faith, joining with personal clergy to reinforce spiritual foundations and religious traditions.

Social Workers: Social workers play a central role in holistic hospice care serving as advocates for patient and family and connecting them with community resources important for quality of life. Social workers help with the emotional impact of grief and bereavement as well as practical concerns such as insurance and veteran’s benefits.

Pharmacists: Our pharmacists monitor patient medications to assure safety and tailor medications to meet individual patient needs. When cost might compromise patient quality of life, our pharmacists work with drug manufacturers to provide medications through patient assistance programs.

Therapists: Our therapy teams bring an additional level of comfort, care and quality of life to patients. Respiratory, occupational and massage therapists assure comfort and care, while music, art and pet therapies contribute to quality of life. Aromatherapy, light and Reiki therapies are additional levels of comfort available to our hospice patients.

Volunteers: Our volunteers receive special training to support patients and provide patient companionship, caregiver relief, errand running and a multitude of other services to enhance patient and family care.

To learn more about how we can assist you or your loved one, please give us a call at 888.449.4121 or visit or contact us page. 

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Chaplains Lift Spirits of Patients & Families

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Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton Chaplain Team

Chaplains are an important part of the Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton interdisciplinary team. Their spiritual support for patients starts with respecting the personal beliefs of each individual.

Hospice chaplains give the gift of listening to each patient and encouraging them to speak about the people, moments, values, work and relationships that have given them meaning and purpose.

For some, a religious or faith tradition is an important aspect of their life, giving them meaning and purpose. Their faith can strengthen and  comfort them. Our chaplains honor and encourage their faith, joining with personal clergy to reinforce this spiritual foundation that anchors them.

For others, religion traditions may not have held a central role in their  expression of faith, but they may still have a strong sense of spirituality.  Hospice chaplains can help patients reflect upon their beliefs, and express their spirituality.

Chaplains also support those who define themselves as agnostic or atheist, meeting them where they are with no judgment or agenda

The hospice chaplain helps each patient be open to the spiritual experience as they prepare to let go of the life they have known and loved.

Meet our team of chaplains:

 

 

 

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What is “Normal” When Talking about Grief?

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Intense grief can be a new and frightening experience. Most people feel like strangers in unfamiliar, uncharted territory when experiencing grief for the first time. Fear of “going crazy” may prevent the griever from asking others if this experience of grief is normal.

The truth is that people grieve differently and one person’s experience may look very different from that of another.

Though everyone grieves in a unique way, certain thoughts, emotions and behaviors are almost universal to acute grief. Following are some of the most common:

  • Overwhelming sadness and tearfulness
  • Feelings of emptiness and loneliness
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory
  • Problems falling and/or staying asleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of energy and/or motivation
  • Decreased interest in things that formerly held your interest
  • Desire to withdraw socially from others
  • Restlessness and/or increased anxiety

Just knowing these grief symptoms are normal may be enough to calm your fears. However, if you still have questions about your grief journey, attending a support group may help. Listening to the stories of other grievers can assist in understanding your own grief symptoms. Grief support services are available at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton through Pathways of Hope. Contact Pathways of Hope at 937-258-4991.

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Camp Breakaway Flashback!

Camp Breakaway is back on January 18, 2016! Families who have not yet registered children and teens (ages 7-17) can RSVP here: https://hospiceofdayton.webconnex.com/breakaway16

Each year, Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton’s Pathways of Hope hosts “Camp Breakaway,” a one-day grief-focused program designed for children and teens who have experienced the loss of a significant loved one such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, or other meaningful relationship in their lives.

This special program combines grief support in age-appropriate group discussion, art, and music, along with fun activities at the Kettering Recreation Complex like swimming and ice-skating. Over the years, grieving children and teens in the community have received support from peers as well as professionally trained, board-certified art and grief therapists.

Take a look at some of the fun activities Camp Breakaway kids and teens have participated in over the years, thanks to generous contributions from our community to support Pathways of Hope! Thank you Dayton for supporting superior care and services for our patients and their families. Learn more about Pathways of Hope grief support by clicking here.

To learn more details about 2016 Camp Breakaway and to register, please follow this link: https://hospiceofdayton.webconnex.com/breakaway16

Pathways Breakaway 2016 – Registration Now Open!

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Fun activities at the Kettering Recreation Center focus on helping kids express themselves.

Are you interested in supporting a child who may be experiencing grief? Pathways Breakaway is designed for children, 7-17, who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or other loved one. This daylong event focuses on giving kids the opportunity to enjoy age-specific, fun activities such as swimming, ice skating and games. Along with physical activity, Breakaway allows time for exploring an emotional expression of grief with activities involving art, music and group discussions. Lunch and snacks will be provided.

Pathways Breakaway will be held on Monday, Jan. 18 2016, from 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM, a day on which many children will be out of school for the Martin Luther King holiday. The event takes place at the Kettering Recreation Center, 2900 Glengarry Drive, Kettering, Ohio, Breakaway is offered at no charge, but pre-registration is required as the event will be limited to 50 children.

For further information and registration materials, please contact Pathways of Hope at (937)258-4991, or email pathwaysofhope@hospiceofdayon.org. Families can also register online at www.hospiceofdayton.org/breakaway.

New Chapel Full of Serenity and Symbolism

A dedication service for the newly renovated Chapel space at Hospice of Dayton was held on Friday, April 3, 2015.  The original Chapel was part of the Colp Building addition and opened in 1990.

The designer of the new Chapel, Beth Striebel, along with Architect, Paul Striebel, and Franklin Art Glass, paid homage to Biblical symbolism throughout their beautiful design.  The serene water fountain symbolizes baptism and renewal, while the stone wall mimics the look of the “Wailing Wall” for prayer in Jerusalem.

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Beth Striebel explains the inspirational symbolism evident throughout her design:

 “The stained glass panels convey a sense of tranquility, stirs the imagination, and presents an image of God’s outreach of His love.  The flowing design brings together the separated panels of glass and encloses the space of the Chapel the same way a prayer shawl, Tallith, ‘Little Tent’, provides enclosure to us, while in prayer. The lines in this piece represent the fringes of thread, Zizith, ‘Tassels’, found at the four corners of the prayer shawl, Tallith, ‘Little Tent’. The Tallith is symbolic of God’s love and provisions for His people, as is said in Psalm 61:4 (‘Let me dwell in Your tent forever!; Let me take refuge under the shelter of Your wings’)…The stained glass depicts a sweet sense of our loving Father’s care at a time when life seems so fragile, and encourages all that allow their imagination to receive, what their heart can feel.”

Welcomed with the soft guitar and vocals of Chaplain Mollie Magee, dedication service attendees joined in a Litany of Thanksgiving for the Chapel, along with a blessing, and the Hospice Prayer. We are thankful for this new Chapel for our patients, family members, and staff to enjoy this space for peaceful prayer and reflection.

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Living With Loss During a Season of Celebrations

Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays tend to be particularly challenging for the bereaved, painfully triggering memories and longings for times past. For many, Halloween has replaced Thanksgiving as the “kick-off” to an ever lengthening marathon of holiday preparations and activities. Even in the best of times the holiday season can tax physical, emotional, and financial resources.  It should come as no surprise when grieving people start to feel a sense of dread as they contemplate the first holidays after loss. Since withdrawing into a cave and hibernating with the bears until spring comes is not a practical option, the best strategy is to prepare and plan for the challenges the holiday season brings. holidaysstuff

Recognize your very human tendency to expect and predict the worst. In fact, most bereaved veterans of “first holidays” will tell you that although the holiday itself presented them with some painful moments, their anticipation was much worse than the experience.

Seek out structured opportunities to acknowledge your loss and honor the memory of your loved one.  Participation in remembrance events such as the Hospice of Dayton’s  Remembrance Walk and the Hope for the Holidays program, or one of the many advocacy  group sponsored events such as Walk for the Cure, Walk to Defeat ALS can serve as  meaningful opportunities for healing.

Involve other family members in planning for the holidays. A family conference can be an effective forum that encourages the renegotiation of holiday plans and individual responsibilities based on input from everyone.

Scale back or eliminate—decorating, shopping, baking, cards, social obligations. Even in the best of years we often find ourselves exhausted by trying to “do it all’; when grief is part of the mix, it becomes clear that “doing it all” is more than impossible.

Consider altering, rather than discarding, important family traditions. While it might be too painful this year to gather around the dining room table for the “traditional” home-cooked dinner, a buffet meal that everyone contributes to, or dinner out at a restaurant, may be preferable alternatives.

Create new rituals that incorporate your loved one’s memory into the holiday.  Flameless candles that “burn” throughout the season, lighting a memorial candle at mealtime, decorating the gravesite with seasonal flowers or other items are all examples of small, but meaningful,  rituals that acknowledge our continuing bonds.

The custom of holiday gift giving is often a painful reminder of the gifts and people we are no longer shopping for.  Many find that intentional gifts to lonely shut-ins, residents in nursing homes, or individuals/families with material needs can be a meaningful way of honoring deceased loved ones.

Intentional “random acts of kindness” during the holiday season can be highly therapeutic.  A larger than normal tip for the waiter or waitress, paying the bill for an unsuspecting diner, leaving change in a vending machine, leaving a book in a waiting room or bus station with a note to enjoy, sending an anonymous gift to someone you know, offering a kind word to a frazzled mother… the opportunities to look outside ourselves are limitless.

Nurture yourself. Take a nap, sleep in, soak in the tub, or get a massage.

Ask yourself this question- “If I knew that this holiday season were to be the last one that I would have with my remaining loved ones, how would I spend it?”  Loss teaches us that the moments we are granted in life are incredibly fleeting and valuable.

Seek out additional support. Attending a grief support group or talking to a grief counselor can be of immeasurable help in meeting the challenges of navigating the holiday season. For more information about grief counseling through Pathways of Hope, read here. Pathways of Hope grief counseling is available for adults, children, and teens, regardless of hospice affiliation.

Six Needs Of Mourning For Children Who Are Grieving

BY MARY GAMAGE MSW, LSW

Hospice_3_1_13-66Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D discusses mourning needs for children who have suffered a significant loss.  These mourning needs can help children heal through their journey of grief.

Need 1:  Accept the Death

The first mourning need is to accept the death.  It’s difficult for any child to accept that their loved one is gone and their life will be forever changed.  Children may try to imagine that the loss never really happened; this is okay and perfectly normal. Eventually, with time and support from trusting adults in their life, children will learn to accept this difficult loss.

Need 2:  Feel the Sadness

The second mourning need of the child is the need to feel the sadness.  Children do not have to feel sad all the time because quite frankly, it isn’t very much fun to feel sad.  We need to allow and encourage children to have fun and let them feel good!  As caring adults, we need to make ourselves available to children when they do have their sad moments.

Need 3:  Remember the Person

The third mourning need is to remember the person who died.  As adults, we need to encourage children to talk about the person who died, share memories, and look at pictures.

Need 4:  Accept that Life is Different Now

The fourth mourning need has to do with helping children accept that their life is different now.  Their life has changed and so has their family.  Their life will never be the same again, but that doesn’t mean that they will never be happy again.

Need 5:  Think About why it Happened:

The fifth mourning need encourages children to think about why this loss happened.  This is a very difficult question to answer, especially for a child.  Talking to a trusted adult about the “why’s” in life can help a child “make sense” of their loss.

Need 6:  Allow Others to Help the Child:

The sixth mourning need has to do with allowing others to help the child who has suffered a loss:  now and always!  It’s important for children to have adults in their life that they can trust and who are always there for them, no matter what.  The process of grief is hard work; that is why it’s important to have people who are supportive to help us through it.  We need to let children know that it is okay to ask for help.

For information on Grief Support for Youth, please click here

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