(KFOR NEWS September 19, 2022) Nebraska News Connection – Nebraska is one of six states participating in “No Child Grieves Alone,” a series of regional conferences aiming to help communities recover after the social isolation and the tremendous loss of life during the global pandemic.
Carly Runestad, executive director of the Mourning Hope Grief Center, said the event will explore ways for parents, teachers, school counselors and anyone else working with children to support them as they process the loss of a family member or friend.
“It’s kind of our human nature for us to try and shield children from grief, but grief is really a natural human experience,” Runestad explained. “It’s not a problem, we don’t need to try to fix it, it is just a universal healthy reaction to loss.”
The one-day conference begins at 11 a.m., Sept. 29 at Mourning Hope’s campus on South Folsom street in Lincoln. The event is free to attend, includes lunch, and professionals can earn three Continuing Education credits for a fee.
Children of color are more likely than their white counterparts to experience the death of a parent, as are children living in rural areas. One in sixteen Nebraska kids will experience a death before they turn 18.
Runestad emphasized when children have support, they can learn to integrate a death-loss experience and go on to live healthy, engaged lives. Without support, they can suffer long-term consequences.
“That’s where we can see their life trajectory derail a bit,” Runestad observed. “That’s where we can start to see them finding unhealthy coping skills, where they may start to look at drugs or alcohol to help ease the pain of their loss.”
Runestad noted just like adults, each child experiences grief differently. It is not one size fits all. She added anyone with children in their lives can offer critical support by simply being there, and listening with their heart.
“Having people that walk alongside them in their grief, that meet them where they’re at, and are really present for that person’s pain,” Runestad advised. “Not trying to take it away, not trying to relieve it, but just to be present for them.“