Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: Program supports grieving children |

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: Program supports grieving children

Children's Grief Awareness Day is Nov. 20. Observed on the third Thursday of every November, it is intentionally set during the holiday season, a particularly difficult time for those grieving the loss of a loved one. For more information, go to

Children and teens who have lost a loved one often feel alone and overwhelmed in their grief not realizing there are others who understand and can help them through this difficult process.

Feelings of loss can result from death, divorce, illness, abandonment, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and disconnection from family. Grieving is difficult for everyone, but it can be particularly hard for children who often don’t have life experience and tools to deal with intensely challenging life circumstances.

Supporting children and families through the grief process is the focus of Poogie’s Place, a program of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The growing program provides participants peer support and activities to help them make sense of the many difficult and complex emotions associated with grief.

The program is available to preschoolers though teens, who use creative mediums — art, music, writing, photography and storytelling — and physical activities to express their feelings with others who also are grieving.

Children and families learn:

• That they are not alone in their grief.

• To share their emotions and thoughts in a non-judgmental atmosphere.

• To normalize their experience.

• That healing and hope is possible.

“One of the things we really try to do is help kids understand their grief rights; they need to be allowed to feel and process grief in their own way,” said Katy Thiel, medical social worker at VNA.

The 10 grief rights (information provided by Dr. Allen Wolfelt):

1. I have the right to have my own unique feelings about death.

2. I have the right to talk about my grief whenever I feel like talking.

3. I have the right to show my feelings of grief in my own way.

4. I have the right to need other people to help me with my grief, especially grown-ups who care about me.

5. I have the right to get upset about normal, everyday problems.

6. I have the right to have “grief bursts.”

7. I have the right to use my beliefs about my god to help me deal with my feelings of grief.

8. I have the right to try to figure out why the person I love died.

9. I have the right to think and talk about my memories of the person who died.

10. I have the right to move toward and feel my grief and, over time, to heal.

How can you help a friend in need?

Someone you know has experienced the loss of a loved one. It’s difficult to know how to help. What do you say? What do you do? How can you help a grieving friend? You can help by just being there.

• Listen if they want to talk about a person who died.

• Sit with them even when they don’t feel like talking.

• Offer a hug when they need it.

• Visit, call, send an email, a text message or a card.

• Be there and just be yourself.

If you know someone who needs support or would like more information about Poogie’s Place, call Katy Thiel at 970-871-7628 or

Suzi Mariano is the director of marketing and development for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

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