The Good Grief Program - Supporting Children Through Grief (PDF)
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ways that both children and adults grieve. If you are looking for information on how to support a child grieving during this pandemic, please see our resources guides:
The Good Grief Program at Boston Medical Center provides support to children and families at a time when they may feel most vulnerable: after a child has experienced a significant loss. Although loss is an inevitable part of life; the experience of a significant loss such as death, divorce, or separation from a primary caregiver challenges us all, especially children. In the aftermath of loss, children need the support of caring adults to help them make sense of their loss, to support them in their grief, and to encourage their use of healthy and adaptive coping strategies. The Good Grief Program has acted as a steadying and supportive force for grieving families as they adapt and move forward in the wake of tragedy and crisis.
The program accomplishes this work through a variety of efforts, including:
- Offering consultation appointments to caregivers searching for the best ways to support their grieving children.
- Providing grief therapy for BMC pediatric patients.
- Facilitating Family Nights, where bereaved families can gather with other families that have experienced a loss.
- Providing grief-sensitive training and consultation to community agencies. And
- Connecting individuals to grief resources.
Through these services, the Good Grief Program seeks to equip families with the tools needed to process their grief experience and promote lifelong resiliency.
Ways to Support Our Work
If you are interested in ways to support the work of the Good Grief Program, please consider making a donation to our program or selecting something from our Amazon Wish List. These items have been hand-selected to support our work of helping children cope with loss and promoting their resiliency. The Wish List can be viewed here.
Good Grief’s Caregiver Consultation
The experience of a significant loss can be overwhelming for everyone in a family. It is normal for parents and caregivers to feel “at a loss” for how to talk to their children about what has happened (or what is going to happen). The Good Grief Program is here to offer parents and caregivers a helping hand. Through Good Grief’s Caregiver Consultation service, caregivers meet with a therapist who can provide an empathetic space for caregivers to consider how a loss is impacting their child and the best ways to support that child. The therapist will provide information on how children understand and grieve losses. Additionally, caregivers can discuss any concerns they may have, explore language to use to explain loss to their child, and consider supportive strategies to help children. The therapist can also provide connections to additional supports.
Frequently Asked Questions: Caregiver Consultation
What is the goal of the Caregiver Consultation?
The goal of the Caregiver Consultation is to offer parents/caregivers a source of support when they are confronted with an acute loss, such as the death of a family member, parental divorce, caregiver separation (due to incarceration, deportation, deployment, DCF placement, etc.), or immigration losses.
Who comes to this appointment?
Although the session is focused on the needs of the child, this appointment is for the child's caregiver(s) to attend independently (without their child). This allows the caregiver and the therapist to fully explore the caregiver's concerns and the impact of the loss on their child.
What should a caregiver expect from the consultation?
Caregiver(s) will meet individually with a therapist to:
- Discuss how the loss is impacting their child(ren),
- Receive information on how children grieve,
- Develop age-appropriate language to share information about the loss,
- Explore supportive strategies to help children as they grieve and adapt to life after their loss, and/or
- Determine if additional services may be needed.
How many sessions is the Caregiver Consultation?
The number of sessions is flexible in order to best respond to each family’s needs. While many families need just one session, some may benefit from one to two more additional sessions.
What happens after the consultation is finished?
During the consultation session, the therapist will work with the caregiver to determine what additional supports may be needed. The therapist will provide needed/desired referrals (e.g., in-home therapy, bereavement groups, individualized counseling, family counseling, etc.).
How do I set up a Caregiver Consultation?
Interested families can refer themselves by contacting the Good Grief Program: 617.414.4005. Providers may also make referrals through contacting the program.
Experiencing intense emotions is a normal part of grieving. Most of the time, this intensity fades and children return to participating in the activities of their everyday life. Sometimes, children may get "stuck" in their grief. This can look like:
- A child who has new or worsening difficulty at school,
- A child who has new or worsening difficulty at school,
- A child who seems to have changed relationships with their peers,
- A child who no longer has interest in the activities that they previously enjoyed,
- A child who has significant changes to their sleeping or eating habits,
- A child who goes to great lengths or avoid talking or remembering their, or
- A child who difficulty "turning off" memories, images, or sounds associated with their loss.
If you notice these changes in your child, it could be helpful to connect them to grief therapy. The Good Grief Program's therapy services are open to children who are patients of Boston Medical Center.
Frequently Asked Questions: Grief Therapy
Who is eligible services?
- Boston Medical Center patients, ages 0-17, who have experienced a significant loss.
- Who can make a referral for a child to receive therapy?
- Families can contact the Good Grief Program directly. Providers can also make referrals. Referrals can be made by contacting 617.414.4005.
- What is the process for getting a child enrolled in therapy?
Once eligibility is determined, a staff member will complete a brief screening with the child's caregiver over the phone. Families will be alerted of when to expect a call from a therapist to begin services. Once a Good Grief therapist can begin seeing the child for therapy, they will reach out to the family.
Therapy services begin with information-gathering sessions, typically referred to as an "assessment." The child's caregiver(s) usually meet individually with the therapist to share information about their child such as their child's strengths, how long the loss has impacted the child and their concerns for the child. The therapist will work with the caregiver(s) to identify goals to guide the therapy. This process usually takes about 3-5 meetings. Once completed, the therapist will begin grief-focused therapy with the child.
How long does therapy last?
The Good Grief Program individualized therapy to the needs of each child. Because of this, the length of time a child receives therapy can vary greatly. For some children, therapy may last a few months. For others, therapy may last longer.
Grief can be isolating for adults and children. To combat this isolation, the Good Grief Program works collaboratively with Care Dimensions to provide twice monthly Family Nights. These Family Nights are opportunities for bereaved families to gather together with others and build connections. Trained facilitators provide a space for children and their caregivers to communicate about their loss through structured activities and fun events.
Frequently Asked Questions: Family Nights
Who can attend Family Nights?
Family Nights are for bereaved children, ages 4-17, and their families. Family Nights are open to any family that has experienced the death of an important person. Since Family Nights are centered on family communication, caregivers are expected to participate in the events alongside their children.
Interested families must complete a registration prior to participation. This registration can be completed by calling 617.414.4005.
When and where do they occur?
Due to current physical distancing requirements, the Good Grief Program and Care Dimensions are not offering in-person Family Nights. Check back frequently for updates on when these services will resume.
What happens at a Family Night?
Each Family Night starts with dinner, where children and adults have a chance to relax and socialize with other families. After dinner, the group facilitators lead families through activities or support their participation in an event. Past Family Nights have included creating memory boxes, designing family murals, and engaging in yoga. Family Nights begin and end with special rituals to help families find ways to remember their important person.
How can an interested family learn more?
Interested families can contact the Good Grief Program by calling 617.414.4005. Before participating in a Family Night, all families must complete a registration. Caregivers can complete this registration over the phone or by setting up an appointment.
What if a family cannot make a commitment to attend all of the Family Nights?
Family Nights are structured as drop-in support, meaning a family does not need to commit to coming to all scheduled events. However, families are expected to confirm their attendance at least 48 hours in advance to ensure that the facilitators can plan appropriately.
Resource and Referral Connections
The Good Grief Program maintains a robust library of resources for children, families, schools, and other community agencies. If you are in need of more information or a referral to a children’s bereavement or behavioral health program in your area, please contact us at 617.414.4005.
Consultation and Information
Providers supporting grieving families may not know where to turn for bereavement resources or information. The Good Grief Program offers consultation and information to other professionals supporting families in need. By contacting our program, providers can speak with a therapist who can offer connections to grief resources, general information about the bereavement process, and individualized consultation for impacted families. If you are in need of a consultation, please call 617.414.4005.
The Good Grief Program at Boston Medical Center offers a variety of training opportunities for professionals interested in learning more about how to best support children who have experienced loss. These trainings and workshops are built on the belief that in the crisis of loss lies an opportunity for developing and strengthening coping skills in all children. Although not exhaustive, the following list describes some of the trainings offered through the Good Grief Program.
Understanding Children's Grief and Loss Experiences
This training explores the impact of acute loss on children. Using dialogue, activities, videos, and presentation of theory; participants will explore the meaning of loss in engaging, respectful, and approachable ways.
Strategies to Support Grieving Children
This training takes a details the intersection of child development and the grieving process. Facilitators use lessons learned from their work with families to explore the most important principles when talking to children about loss and supporting their resiliency.
Childhood Traumatic Grief
This training provides an introduction to Childhood Traumatic Grief. Clinical examples are used to illustrate the ways traumatic grief can interfere with the grieving process. Facilitators and participants consider the implications for working with children who are traumatically bereaved.
Incorporating Grief and Loss into Classroom Culture
The classroom provides ample opportunities to explore death, loss, and grief with students. This training supports educators to identify when and where the concepts of death and loss can be naturally integrated into their curriculum to support the hidden and identified grievers in their classrooms.
Crisis Team Training and Protocol Development
While every school hopes that their community will not encounter a significant loss, it is important to create a proactive plan to thoughtfully address these unimaginable circumstances. The Crisis Team Training and Protocol Development is an interactive workshop that engages school leaders into a collaborative process to develop a reflective, respectful, and organized crisis response protocol.
The Good Grief Program can work with you to develop a training opportunity to fit your particular needs. For more information on availability, cost, and how to bring a training to your school or agency, please contact us at 617.414.4005.
The Good Grief Program offers internship opportunities for graduate students in social work, psychology, and other mental health programs. Interns assist with delivering the supportive services of the program, including caregiver consultation and bereavement group facilitation. Interns also support the day-to-day operations of the Good Grief Program such as connecting interested individuals to appropriate bereavement and/or mental health resources and observing community-based trainings. Each year, interns are encouraged to complete a research or pilot project that relates to needs of grieving families or the work of the Good Grief Program.
To apply for a clinical internship at the Good Grief Program, please email your resume and cover letter to Maureen Patterson-Fede, [email protected].
Volunteers not only contribute to the work of the Good Grief Program; they offer a sense of hope and connection to grieving children and families. If you are interested in learning more about ways to get involved with the Good Grief Program, please contact Maureen Patterson-Fede at [email protected].
Maureen Patterson-Fede, MSW, LICSW
Mental Health Clinician
Maureen Patterson-Fede is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who brings years of working with children and families to her work with the Good Grief Program. The central pillar to Maureen’s work has been supporting children and their caregivers as they heal from trauma and loss. She has worked with families in a variety of settings including domestic violence shelters, Children's Advocacy Centers, clinic-based settings, and home-based work. Across these environments, she has learned that families deeply benefit from kind, empathetic, and attentive care that is led by their needs and illuminates their strengths and resiliency.
In her work with the Good Grief Program, Maureen brings her experience to provide developmentally informed, responsive consultation and support services to caregivers and their children in the wake of an acute loss. Maureen also works collaboratively with school communities to provide training on how to support resiliency and well-being for students who are grieving.
Minelia Rodriguez, MS MHC
Mental Health Clinician
Minelia Rodriguez is a bi-lingual (Spanish/English) mental health clinician, who provides consultation and therapeutic services at the Good Grief Program. Minelia has provided therapeutic and support services to children and families through home, school, and clinic-based programming. Through the Good Grief Program, Minelia is able to provide trauma and grief interventions to children and families when they’ve experienced a significant loss. Minelia works hard to provide service access to families in neighborhoods of a lower socioeconomic status, and who are experiencing higher rates of community violence. Minelia is especially interested in increasing service access for Spanish-speaking families, immigrant families, and families who are experiencing significant barriers to mental health treatment.
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