The Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico (CGC) offers free support groups for bereaved children (ages 5 – 25), and is the only such program in central New Mexico.
To learn more, or sign your family up for our next New Family Orientation, please call us at 505-323-0478. CGC’s office is open Monday – Friday from 8:30am to 5:00pm. Our support groups are held in the evenings throughout the school year.
CGC provides a safe place to share experiences and feelings while grieving a death. Children ages 5 and up, teens, young adults, and adult caregivers attend CGC. Groups are designed to give the children the opportunity to talk, draw, write, play or act out their grief journey and to process these experiences with others who are going through the same thing. Activities are appropriate to each age group, but may include an art project, a puppet show choreographed by the kids, reading children’s stories about different kinds of death, writing personal stories about the death, etc. Group guidelines let each child know they can always “pass” if they feel they aren’t ready for an activity.
Here is a video that shows more.
Families are provided with a complimentary dinner before groups start. The dinner is an important part of the group night. While some of our families are in real economic need of this meal the purpose of the dinner is to give the families 30 minutes to be together and to nourish themselves before going into a group to face what is probably the worst thing to ever happen to them.
The idea of going to a “grief group” sounds scary. Guardians obviously want to protect their kiddos, and keep them from hurting MORE. When your kid has a cavity, you take him to the dentist. If she has a broken leg, you take her to the doctor. If they lost a loved one to death, they need to come to the Children’s Grief Center.
Kids grieve differently from adults. They cannot grieve alone. Often, people who have suffered the death of a parent show increased delinquency in adolescence, suicidal ideation, and preoccupation with issues of loss – compared to children from intact families or from families where parents have divorced (Berlinksy, E. & Biller, H.). In a survey of 300 incarcerated teens, 96% indicated that someone significant in their lives had died (Columbia University 2005). Most disturbingly, 85% of all prisoners on death row experienced the death of a parent during their childhood (Virginia Simpson, PhD). They are telling us that this pain is real, and it does not go away on its own.
US Census Bureau statistics estimate that 1 in 20 children and teens will have experienced the death of a parent by the age of 16. 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).
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. Children are magical thinkers and often blame themselves for the death – they say things like, “If only I’d gotten better grades, my dad wouldn’t have had that heart attack.” 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.
Twice per year group participants are given age-appropriate evaluations. Younger children are asked to give a word or draw a picture about what CGC means to them. Teens & adults are asked to fill out a more comprehensive two-page form. These evaluations are consistently positive. Some recent comments include:
- “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