You Are Not Alone
For more than 20 years, Supporting Kidds has counseled hundreds of grieving children and their families. And the organization’s efforts continue to grow.
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“We found that there were other services out there to help children affected by divorce,” Van Doren says, “but no one was specializing in helping grieving children.” Most mental health practitioners are not taught much about loss and grief in school, she says, and there are even fewer who know about loss and grief as experienced by children.
“At Supporting Kidds, we know how to handle children and families with loss, including younger children, which is an uncommon specialty,” Van Doren says. “We are prevention oriented. These are just normal families who have had something untoward happen to them. We are here to foster and support their own natural healing process.”
The founders discovered a model in the Dougy Center in Portland, Oregon, the first center in the country to provide peer support groups for grieving children. Supporting Kidds was established just seven years after Dougy Center was. In the two decades since, the Delaware organization held its first bereavement support program, and its professionals and trained volunteers counseled more than 4,700 children and families. For much of that time, the organization limited itself to group therapy sessions held in rented spaces, but in 2004 Supporting Kidds opened its own homelike center in Hockessin, which allowed for the addition of individual and family counseling. The organization also began offering a one-day summer camp session for children.
“Some families will move through all the services we offer. Some might do group once, while others find it helpful to do over and over again,” Van Doren says. “It’s incredibly powerful for kids to be able to talk to others their age who have had a similar loss, because it’s not very common.”
In addition to undergoing family and individual counseling, the Pingheras attended two series of group sessions. “The kids benefited from going through it twice with different sets of kids. Seeing that there were more children like them who had lost a parent, and hearing the same messages again, really validated it for them,” Dawn says.
“I was shy and at first I didn’t want to come here at all, but by the second week I felt glad to be here,” Samantha says. “I felt better knowing that I wasn’t alone.”
Mondays were always the hardest for Jonathan, Dawn says. He would come home from school after hearing his friends talk about what they had done with their father over the weekend, which made him feel his loss all the more acutely. He would bristle, too, when other kids or teachers would feel sorry for him or treat him differently because he had no father. He wanted to be like everyone else, Dawn says.
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