Local organizations work to help children process the loss of a loved one

Published: Nov. 25, 2019 at 3:54 PM EST
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - November is Children's Grief Awareness Month and this week Blue Butterfly and the Mark Wandall Foundation partnered to educate parents, grandparents and teachers on the best ways they can be there for children who have experienced a loss.

“I knew that he was in and out of the hospital a lot, I kind of knew it was coming, but I didn’t know when and I wasn’t expecting it to be that soon,” said Danforth.

Last July, Addyson Danforth lost her father to cancer.

"I am sometimes the strong one and I take care, and I do a lot to help out my family, but I also, when I go to Blue Butterfly, I feel like I can just be myself."

The experts say that for a 12-year-old, being the strong one is too much to bear.

Blue Butterfly is a free program offered by Tidewell Hospice to support families and children who have experienced the death of a significant person in their lives. It's the same mission as the Mark Wandall Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Melissa Wandall, who first lost her sister as a teenager, then her husband when she was pregnant.

"When grief is left untreated, it leads to drop out in school, it leads to suicide, it leads to all different kinds of activities that actually end up hurting that grieving child versus helping them," said Wandall.

In Florida, studies show one in 14 children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18. Wandall says it's crucial to turn towards the child instead of turning away.

"A hug says so much, they don't need to hear, "I'm sorry." Let's not isolate them more than they've already been isolated. Let's encourage them to share who their person was because you will see the joy light up on their face once again."

The panel of children agreed, talking about their person helps them cope. They also said feeling included at school, finding people who understand their loss, and talking about it in a positive light also help.

“Kids have grief in waves. It comes and it goes. They can be smiling one minute, and crying another. And their grief is there with them all the time, just like adults. but with kids they’re not able to shut it off and on depending on the situation.”

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