A Safe Harbor in the Storm of Grief
The Children’s Grief Center (CGC) of New Mexico provides special support services for children, teens, young adults (ages 5-25) and their caregivers after the death of a loved one. During the school year, we offer peer support groups at our main location in Albuquerque and our satellite location in Rio Rancho. During the summer and holiday months, we offer a variety of short-term services in various locations, including our Camp Corazon. Families are never charged for our services and we are the only service of this kind in Central New Mexico.
Children cannot grieve alone and need support and guidance with understanding what has happened, that it is in no way their fault and that their loved one did not want to leave them. Children can become isolated in their pain and confusion. They are magical thinkers and often time blame themselves; “My dad would not have died if we did not argue about my homework” or “My mom would have not died in that car accident if she did not take me to my friends house.” These are just a couple of the thoughts of blame and shame that we help children process. As adults, we can’t talk them out of it – but in a safe and supportive environment with kids their own age, going through the same thing, they can start to face those irrational & destructive beliefs they have created and start to heal together. In group, they learn that bad things don’t just happen to bad people. They learn to transform their perspective from “victim” to “victorious.”
Through specialized games, art and other activities at the CGC, children learn to process their grief, they learn coping skills, and they learn how to keep the memory of their loved one alive. Untimely death, despite our best efforts, occurs. An 8 year old boy who experienced incredible trauma during the death of his younger brother in their home said, “I used to think I’d never feel better, but maybe with a place like this, I might.” The Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico helps children and families that are in the darkest time of their lives to start processing their grief and find their new normal.
Why New Mexico Needs a Children’s Grief Center
After participating in CGC support groups, most will report an improvement in the ability to process their grief. The idea of going to a “grief group” can sound scary. Guardians obviously want to protect their kiddos, and keep them from hurting MORE. When your child has a cavity, you take him to the dentist. If they have a broken leg, you take them to the doctor. If they lost a loved one and they have a broken heart, they need to come to the Children’s Grief Center.
20% of children will lose someone close to them by the age of 18 (Kenneth Doka, Editor of OMEGA, Journal of Death and Dying). That is approximately 107,000 kids in New Mexico! To put it in context with another devastating childhood occurrence, it is estimated that for every one child diagnosed with cancer this year, at least 35 children will lose a parent (Brian Perlman, PhD). Young people who experience a death are highly vulnerable. They often exhibit difficulties with trust and intimacy, depression, fear of betrayal/change, anxiety and panic attacks, substance abuse, addictions and eating disorders throughout their lives (Wolfelt, 2015). In order to overcome the pitfalls of unresolved childhood bereavement, young people need an age-appropriate venue in which to work out what is happening within themselves and within their families as a result of the death of their loved one.
“I felt like no one understood me, and like I was all alone, but now I know there are people who feel like I do.” – 14-year-old girl whose father died
“I felt very hopeless and sad before I found CGC. I love this place and our group. I am very grateful to the Grief Center.” – 37-year old mom whose husband died
“CGC is a safe place to cry and share and to let your feelings out.” – 8-year-old girl whose mother died
Click here to learn how your child can join a group.