Fabulous Find Fridays; Bear Heart Buddy

Today’s Fabulous Find is one of my favorite bereavement resources, Bare Heart Buddy! The Bare Heart Buddy was founded by a Child Life Specialist who was looking for something to use for families who were struggling with loss or separation. The Bare Heart Buddy comes in a pack of two teddy bears, both of which have a hidden pocket in their backs. These pockets can be used to save mementos from the loved one, put letters to the loved ones or just draw memories that were shared with the loved ones. I enjoy using them for bereavement with children because I give the child two teddy bears. One they can leave with their loved one in the hospital or in the casket, and the other can be kept with the child. This is a connection with their loved one that lasts long after separation.

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Favorite Bereavement Resources

There are many resources that can be given to families when providing bereavement support. Below are a few of my favorite things;

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Bare Heart Buddy. I love these bears because they have a hidden pocket in them and come in pairs. This means that children can put notes in one for their loved one and leave it at the bedside or in the casket and then they can keep the other bear and put keepsakes in it.

color wonder bundle

Color Wonder is great for making hand prints. By painting the patient’s hand with a clear gel, it will come up on the magic paper. Their loved one, the parent or sibling, can then add their hands to the picture. Because it’s a clear gel, it’s not as messy as paint it. Although I do want to share with you all one thing that we always remind families, make sure to make color copies! The paint does fade after time to if you copy it, it will last longer.

fire in my heart

Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins is a journal for teens. If you work with an adolescent population regularly, you know how hard it is to find resources to promote positive coping in teens. Books are either written for children or adults and teens are in this in-between phase where they need targeted support. This journal is specific for end of life situations and offers the reader many opportunities to write and draw their feelings. Because it’s aimed at teens, the wording isn’t so childish that teens feel babied by it but also not written so much for an adult that it loses the teens’ attention.

 

When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief. This is a journal for school-aged children about death. It focuses on how things change in life and opens a dialogue with children about what grief is.

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The Invisible String is a book for school-aged children that talks about loving someone although they aren’t there with you. Because it’s not specific for death, this book can be used for a variety of losses and separation. When used in bereavement settings, it can help lead discussion about how although our loved one isn’t here with us they still love us and we can still love them.

A Terrible Thing Happened is a book for young children about when something bad happens. It talks about the feelings that children might have, like an upset stomach, and how it is helpful to talk to someone about how you are feeling. The terrible thing is vague throughout the book so that this resource can be used for pretty much any bad thing that happens, but it helps children recognize that these feelings are normal and it’s okay to talk about them.

What are your favorite bereavement resources?

Adult Consults – Visiting the Hospital

The hospital is a scary place. It’s even scarier when you’re a child and you hear that someone you love is sick and in the hospital. As a part of the Adult Consults that I did during my internship (check out last week’s post to learn more about the education portion of those consults), the Child Life Department would assist families in bringing children to the hospital to visit those loved ones.

We would start by talking to families about the children who would be coming. Did they have any past experience with visiting people in the hospital? What do they know about the special someone’s sickness? What are you (the parents) comfortable with sharing with them?

We would then share with the families some typical developmentally appropriate reactions to hospitalization. We talked with the caregiver about the child’s temperament and personality and then share some ways that similar children respond to visiting the hospital.

Finally, we would give practical instructions to the families. We would suggest giving children a job when they entered the room. This could be placing a painting by the bed or setting a teddy bear on the bedside table. By giving children a particular job, it eliminates some of the stress and uncertainty for them. We would also encourage parents to let children visit at their own pace. If they want to go right up to the bed and give their loved one a kiss, that’s okay. But it’s also okay for the child to stay by the door and watch from a distance. In such a stressful situation, it’s important that children feel supported and empowered to visit in a way that they feel comfortable with.

What are some of your tips for supporting a child’s visit to a loved one in the hospital?

Fabulous Find Friday: The Compassionate Friends

Today I want to share a resource for you to share with those you meet in the clinical setting. There is a group called The Compassionate Friends and their mission is to provide support to families after a child dies. The most interesting part about this group is that they aren’t just a support group for those who have lost a child but everyone involved has lost a child. From the local chapter to leadership in the national office, everyone involved has lost a child. So when people reach out for support, the people that greet them “know.” As much as we try to empathize and support families that are grieving, we don’t really know what it’s like to lose a child unless we have lost one. So by providing a support group to families of those who have walked this path as well, we offer those in pain another resource where they can begin to find healing.

The Compassionate Friends isn’t just for parents, but they also provide support to grandparents and siblings. Through their newsletters and support groups, anyone who has lost a child can find someone who shares their pain and really understands what it’s like to lose a child.

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Fabulous Find Friday: “How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious Illness.”

Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is a book recommendation, How to Help Children with a Parent’s Serious Illness by Kathleen McCue.

This is a great guide for parents who want to talk to their children, but it can also educate other professionals in the field who might encounter parents that are dying or their children. McCue offers practical advice for talking to children about a diagnosis and also how to support them through a loss. The book is divided into specific sections that are geared toward answering a particular question or focusing on a specific population. This allows the parent to go straight to the part of the book that might be most applicable to their situation. McCue not only draws on her years of experience from working with families that are undergoing loss, but she also includes real examples of families who have had similar experiences.

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How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It is also available as an Ebook through Google Books.

“The aim is for your children to build a whole new repertoire of responses – safe, healthy ways of coping with the wrenching, abnormal situation of a parent’s grave illness. Whatever transpires now for you, the parents, you want your children to emerge whole, fulfilled, and ready for the rest of their lives.”

– Kathleen McCue