One in 12 children in the U.S. will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18 according to JAG Institute, a research and education organization focused on childhood bereavement.
Indianapolis-based Brooke’s Place offers support services for grieving children, young adults and caregivers. The organization has partnered with the ROCK Community Center for Youth and Children to expand its grief support groups to the East Side of Indianapolis.
Support groups will meet twice a month for a group dinner followed by peer grief support sessions based on age.
“Our child and teen groups are very much tailored to their developmental level,” said Tara Ntumba, support group director. “They're really interactive, we use a lot of fun activities, therapeutic activities, whether that's art or games, and different things to keep that interesting for them, even though what we're coming with is so hard and heavy.”
The expansion should make it easier for grieving children and their families on the East Side to get help, she said.
There are risks to unaddressed grief like depression, substance use and poor school performance. Grief sessions can help children and families navigate a difficult time “without having to wander into risky behaviors or unhealthy coping skills and help them thrive through that,” Ntumba said.
Studies suggest that grief reaction to a parental death usually subsides for most children over time, but for some children prolonged grief can lead to higher levels of functional impairment and depression, even when controlling for clinical characteristics before and after a child experiences a parental death.
Group grief sessions can help with easing feelings of social isolation and loneliness but are most effective after one-on-one counseling, which research suggests is a more effective way to deal with prolonged grief.
Ntumba said these groups can offer a sense of community by connecting families to others in similar situations.
“I think these groups tend to be a place that kids and families are really excited to come to and have a good time together and kind of breathe a sigh of relief in the midst of the heaviness of that grief,” she said.
Those interested in services can submit a support group intake form online at brookesplace.org.