Chilliwack Hospice Society expands child and youth program to include in-school support
Chilliwack Hospice Society child and youth programs manager Franceska “Franny” Hills began visiting students at Vedder Middle School last Spring to talk about their experiences with the death of a caregiver and their unique grieving process. Complementing existing supports in the school system, Chilliwack Hospice Society was able to provide one-to-one sessions for those students within their school schedule over several weeks, free of charge.
Following this positive experience, Hills began introducing herself to administration and counsellors at other schools in the Chilliwack district and is now receiving referrals for students at the elementary, middle, and high school level. Many of these students are grieving the loss of a parent or caregiver; others are grieving the death of a beloved pet, sibling or friend.
“Being present in the schools shows children and youth there is another adult that genuinely cares about their well-being,” says Hills. “Chilliwack Hospice Society services are provided in a safe, confidential space, and offered purely for their benefit.”
Meeting children and youth where they’re at reduces many of the barriers families have accessing grief support such as transportation, finances, and busy schedules with competing priorities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chilliwack Hospice Society has changed the way many of its programs and services are delivered, including virtual grief support groups. Facilitating one-to-one grief support sessions in a student’s school rather than requiring them to attend the Society’s office is another example of how the local non-profit has pivoted to fulfill the needs of bereaved individuals in the Chilliwack community.
“We believe no one should have to grieve alone or without support,” says Sue Knott, Executive Director at Chilliwack Hospice Society. “As our organization continues to evolve, we have seen delivering grief support services in the schools bring hope to families who really need it.”
Hills has been invited to speak to classes about death and dying, bereavement and the supports that are available to children and youth who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Next year she is also planning to facilitate small grief support groups for primary and intermediate students, with permission from their caregivers, who have been identified by school staff as requiring additional support.
Grief is a natural reaction to death. It is the normal process that a person experiences after, or in anticipation of, the death of a loved one. Children and youth express grief and loss differently from adults and may have varying responses in different domains; for example, academic, behavioral, emotional, social, and physical. They might find themselves feeling numb and removed from daily life, unable to carry on with regular activities while saddled with their sense of loss. Alternatively, they may not fully experience the felt sense of their loss and carry on with daily life, only for their grief to surface at a later, undetermined time. The type of support that children and youth receive during their bereavement can impact their health, social relationships, and future success in life endeavors.
If you or someone you know is grieving the loss of a loved one right now, call Chilliwack Hospice Society at (604) 795-4660 or visit www.chilliwackhospice.org to learn more about the one-to-one support, groups and workshops that are currently being offered. Donations are always gratefully accepted at the Thrifty Boutique and online at www.chilliwackhospice.org/donate