The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Helping Children Deal with Loss

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Kayla Held thought no one else in the world could possibly understand what she was going through. Kayla’s mother died from the injuries she sustained when a fire ripped through their home back in 2007.

But Kayla was wrong.

In fact, in recent years, dozens of students in her school alone had experienced the death of a loved one. Principal Sally Cocco soon realized that her student body had a need that wasn’t being addressed:

“I started to writing down names (of students who had lost a loved one) and it was glaringly obvious that we had a deep need at our school to support our students who had experienced the most tragic and horrific loss of their life,” she said.

“A lot of our students were suffering in silence. They were at varying stages of their bereavement and they all thought they were alone.”

By working with Tracy Hofland, a youth counsellor with the District School Board of Niagara, and Niagara author Christine Dernederlanden, Cocco introduced the public board’s first HUGS (Helping Understand Grief Session) at the Garrison Rd. school.

“The program is based on emotion and moving forward,” explained Dernederlanden, a certified trauma service specialist who developed the initiative.

It didn’t take long in the course of Dernederlanden’s program for the light bulb to go off in Kayla’s head: she wasn’t alone in her grief:

“I don’t have to keep all this stuff inside me any more. I can express my feelings about everything I’m going through and there’s other people who have experienced the same thing,” she said.

If not for the program, said Cocco, “the children would continue to suffer in silence.”

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Written by traumalines

June 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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