PORTLAND, Maine — Most people know about the Center for Grieving Children's Bereavement Program for families who've lost a loved one, but when a family member is facing a life-threatening illness, there can also be a real sense of loss.
Kids mourn the changes in the person who is sick or the way things used to be at home. They worry about the future, afraid of losing, not only losing that person, but also upsetting them by sharing their fears feelings or hurting them by hugging them.
Serious illness changes the dynamic in the home and for kids and that can very scary. They might act out, or withdraw from others, or their school work might suffer as a result.
That's why the Center for Grieving Children also has a Tender Living Care program.
It operates in the same way its Bereavement Program does. There are weekly meetings. Families come in regularly on a given night and split into groups. The patients and caregivers have their own groups, and the children divide into age groups.
The whole model is about peer support. In groups of people who are dealing with the same issues and emotions, they learn from each other. They can express their fears and concerns with others who understand what they are going through and don't judge them.
The children often play games or do art, but in the process express what they are feeling, and understand they are not alone in their struggles. And best of all, the program is completely free for as long as families need it.
The Zagers found themselves at the Center for Grieving Children four years ago when mom Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer four months after her mother was also diagnosed with cancer and in the midst of her husband's cancer scare.
It was hard to convince the kids they were not going to get cancer too. Everyone was scared and no one was sleeping. That's when they called in Center for Grieving Children. Their two daughters were in crisis, each reacting to the situation very differently.