A Welcoming, Safe Space Where Families Find Support and Healing
For the last 33 years, Maine’s Center for Grieving Children has been providing support and resources to those grieving the loss of a loved one. The Center was founded in 1987 by Portland resident Bill Hemmens following the death of his sister. At the time, Hemmens was trying to find resources to support his niece as she dealt with the loss of her mother. In the years since then, the Center for Grieving Children has grown and today serves more than 4,000 children, adults, teens and families each year across Southern Maine from its locations in Portland and Sanford.
According to Anne Heros, Executive Director for the Center for Grieving Children, what makes the Center unique is the family model that it uses across its programs and workshop offerings. The Center gives families a safe place to begin the healing process together, which is particularly important for children and families who have lost a loved one to addiction.
“Our peer support groups break down the walls of isolation and with children, in particular, help them understand that they are not alone,” says Heros. “Children are in the process of developing their own language for feelings and need to be supported when something life-changing like this happens in their family. We want to give them hope and make them feel less alone.”
The Center for Grieving Children offers peer support groups for children ages three through 18 and their parents and caregivers, for young adults ages 19-30, and for bereaved parents and young widow(er)s/partners.
The Center’s peer support groups are run by volunteer facilitators from the community who have completed at least 30 hours of training and are supported by the Center’s clinical staff. All of the Center’s services and resources, including its peer support groups, are free.
Heros says that in the last few years, there’s been a shift in the reasons why families are coming to the Center for Grieving Children. Today, many of those who come to the Center need help dealing with the death of a loved one by overdose. As a result, the Center has adapted its training of volunteers and staff members to serve those grieving a loved one’s addiction-related death.
“Rather than the Center being a sad place, even though the reasons for coming to the Center are sad, sometimes it provides a child with an outlet for the first time for them to feel it’s okay to have fun, to laugh,” said Heros. “When families come to the Center on their first night, they often come to our door in a vulnerable and raw place. But they usually leave that night in a very different place.”
The Center for Grieving Children provides free programs and resources for adults and children that center on bereavement, coping with serious illness, the needs of immigrant/refugee youth, and providing educational workshops and training for school teachers and administrators. The Center also collaborates and maintains referral relationships with area therapists, schools and nonprofits, should a family’s needs go beyond what the Center can offer.
To learn more about the Center for Grieving Children’s offerings, visit their website or call (207) 775-5216.