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Sat, Oct. 19

Heartsong offers grief support to kids

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When the death of a loved one occurs, the healthy way to respond is through grief. However, losing loved ones doesn’t just affect adults, it affects children too. That’s where the Heart Song Center for Grieving Children comes in, meeting on the first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Prescott, 216 E. Gurley St.

The Heart Song Center for Grieving Children began through the efforts of Adam Bissell, a chaplain and counselor at Good Samaritan Society – Prescott Home Health and Hospice. Working with youth for more than 20 years, it was six or seven years ago that Bissell came to Prescott. When he got here, Bissell noticed that while hospice is required through Medicare to offer grief support to all ages, not all ages were being supported even though the area is full of families.

“If you look around town, there’s lots of adult grief support groups, but there’s nothing for kids,” Bissell said, noting he started by offering free grief support one-on-one to kids in the schools. “But the desire was always on my heart for more than that to happen.”

The dream labored with Bissell for a few years before he met with the Good Samaritan Society director and wrote a grant proposing the beginning of a grief center for kids. A grant of $6,000 was received in 2015 and in July of that year, they started gathering people interested and had the New Song Center for Grieving Children in Phoenix do the training.

From there it grew. Originally, Bissell was looking at the standpoint of starting out small with teenagers, said Larry Gordon, also a part of the organization. However, statistics found that out of the 100,000 people in the quad-city area, about 1,000 children between the ages of 5 and 18 years old are actively grieving on any day of the year, Gordon said.

“There’s a need here. We thought if we were going to do this, we decided to do it right,” Gordon said. “That’s what we did.”

The children who participate in the program are those that have had a death in the family, either a parent, sibling or grandparent, or someone important to their life, Gordon said. It starts with a meal, where those in the program can get to know each other, followed by getting into a sharing circle with a talking stick, a method used for kids to share about what’s going on their heart, he said, adding that’s where the name Heart Song Center for Grieving Children came from.

After the big group finishes, it breaks down into smaller groups, made up of littles 5-9 years old, middles 10-11 years old, tweens and teenagers.

The smaller groups have activities themed for some type of healing process for that night, Gordon said. The night then ends with getting back into the big circle and having a closing ceremony that includes a song as well as any type of significant dates surrounding the loved one who passed away, such as birthdays or anniversaries. This is meant to honor the person the child cared for who passed away, he said.

“We want to honor their loved one no matter how they passed away,” Gordon said, noting that though the nature of the death can range from natural causes and illness to traumatic and tragic, grief is still grief. “Everybody’s grief is really their own special grief, there’s no grief that’s the same.”

On average, the program lasts around a year to 18 months, Gordon said.

For more information about the Heart Song Center for Grieving Children, visit www.heartsong4kids.org.

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