FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
About The Healing Place
How is The Healing Place funded/Do you charge for your services?
The Healing Place is funded through grants, donations, and fundraisers. All of our services are provided free of charge to the children and families who come to us. Thanks to the generosity of our community we are able to provide grief support and education for free. We accept all donations!
Is The Healing Place a faith-based organization?
The Healing Place's services are not rooted in any specific religious practice, although we recognize that faith is often a strong coping skill when families are faced with grief and loss. We welcome children and families of all beliefs. Our counselors will happily listen to a family's values and incorporate them into that family's grief support, but we will never project our own values or beliefs onto a family's grief journey.
Can I volunteer with The Healing Place?
Yes! We love volunteers, they are the heart of The Healing Place. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, but sometimes we have opportunities for peer mentorships for teenagers 14 and older that would like to help. We offer several volunteer training sessions throughout the year that help to orient volunteers to the mission of The Healing Place and provide basic grief support skills. If you want to know about volunteer opportunities at The Healing Place, please call our office.
How/how much should I tell my child about the death?
Every child and family is different. The answer to this question varies depending on the child's age/developmental level, the nature of their relationship to the person who has died, the circumstances of the death, and other factors. You know your child and your family best, so use your best judgement. When a loss occurs, our first instinct as adults might be to protect children by not telling them what’s happened. This urge to protect is understandable, but it is more helpful and supportive to tell children the truth, in language they can understand. Knowing the truth reduces confusion and also lets children use their limited energy and inner resources to adjust to the loss instead of trying to figure out what happened. Even babies and very young children will know that something is different when someone in their life is ill, has died, or is no longer living with them or caring for them in the same way. To help with comprehension, use clear, concrete, body-centered language. Even though these discussions can be hard to have, being honest and open is an important first step in helping grieving children. Click here for an informational packet about talking to children about death.
Even with lots of tips, talking to children about grief and death can be emotionally taxing, especially if you are grieving yourself. Try to pay attention to your own feelings that pop up during these conversations and make space to tend to them in whatever way feels most appropriate for you.
How do I explain suicide to my child?
Explaining a death from suicide to a child or teen can feel overwhelming and intimidating. As adults, we often
want to protect them from the stigma and shame that can accompany such a death. Click here for some tips for talking with children and teens about a death from suicide and ways to support them as they grieve.
How do I explain overdose/substance abuse to my child?
When someone dies from substance use, explaining it to children and teens can feel overwhelming and intimidating. This is especially true when our urge is to try to protect them from the stigma and shame that can surround this type of death. Click here for some tips for talking with children and teens about a death from substance use and ways to support them in their grief.
Grief is unique to each person and every family. Please adapt these suggestions as needed.
How do I explain cremation to my child?
Explaining cremation to a child can be daunting. The most important part of this conversation is to remain calm and approach it in a way that makes the child feel at ease. Children can sense the emotions of their caregivers, so if you are anxious or worried, they are more likely to approach the topic with fear. The next most important part is to make sure children understand that the body being cremated does not think or feel like it did when the person was alive. For more tips about how to have this conversation, click here.
Should my child attend the funeral?
Too often, children and teens feel like the "forgotten mourners." They are seen but not heard or even spoken to at a funeral. What they often get is a pat on the head, or hugs from adults they don't know. Many adults still wonder if it's a good idea to include children in funerals at all. Every family has its own traditions and beliefs, and these will play a strong role in funeral and memorial service planning. In addition, one of the most helpful things parents can do for their children during this time is to give them choices. Children appreciate having choices as much as adults do. They have opinions, and want to be heard. Children don't like being left out of anything, even a funeral. It is a meaningful and important experience for children to have the opportunity to say goodbye to the person who died in a way that feels right to them. Saying goodbye is never easy, but it helps bring a sense of finality to the death that is helpful in the healing process.
People often wonder at what age a child should attend a funeral. Age is not the most important consideration. Generally speaking, young children don't seem to have the fear of the deceased or dead bodies adults think they do. It is important to invite children or teenagers to the funeral, without forcing them to make a particular decision. Children who are not allowed to attend a funeral may feel they didn't get their chance to say goodbye. On the other hand, children who were forces to attend a funeral may feel resentful. Children should not be criticized if they don't want to attend the funeral. They may regret the decisions they make, but they won't have the added issues of resentment for not being allowed to make their own choice.
In order to make a choice, children need explanations and information about what a funeral is and what is going to happen. After a death, the world as they know it is completely changed. Additional surprises and unfamiliar situation can complicate the grieving process. Not unlike adults, kids like to be filled in on the basics of who, what, where, when and why. They expect us to be clear, direct and concrete in our explanations. They are experts at discerning when adults are beating around the bush. When explaining the events of a funeral to a child, it's best to "tell it like it is." Typical aspects of the funeral that may be discussed include: Who will be at the funeral or memorial service? What is going to happen? Where will the service take place? When will the funeral happen? Why are we doing this?
Some choices are harder to make than others. For example, many parents are uncomfortable with the idea of a child viewing the body of the deceased. Typically, parents or caregivers ask: "Won't children be traumatized if that is the last image they have in their mind?" This is an even greater concern when the person who died is disfigured. Often, they are also making theses decision under time pressure and during a time of great emotional stress. An outside expert, such as funeral director, can coach parents or caregivers on how to include children in such a decision.
For example, on the topic of viewing, it's helpful for grieving parents to consider the fact that kids have big imaginations. Often, their fantasy picture of what the body looks like may be worse or more frightening than the reality. They are also curious. Viewing the body may also help them understand the reality that the person is dead.
On the other hand, some children may opt not to view the body. They need to know that this decision is respected even if other family members choose differently. As with other aspects of the funeral and burial, children need explanation of what they an expect to see and experience if they view the body. They need permission to choose, and the reassurance that whatever they decide is okay. Below is a list of important facts a child might want to know before choosing to view a body:
is in an open or a partially open casket
is cool in temperature
can't talk and doesn't see you
won't come back to life
may be puffed up
may have markings, etc. from injury or illness
will look and feel different than the person did before the death
may have a different smell
Children and teenagers can also be involved in planning different aspects of the service, including choosing flowers, decorations, special readings, music selections, or writing their own remembrance. Some families may choose to put together a video or photographs of the person who died. Another tradition families may have is creating a memorabilia table with special objects which remind them of the person who died, such as sports gear, pictures, clothing, or other belongings of the person.
Here is a list of some possible decisions children can help make around the time of the funeral or memorial service. They may choose to be involved or want nothing to do with these activities. Either choice is acceptable: Attending or not attending the service, selecting the casket, deciding whether or not to view the body, choosing special objects to put in the casket, choosing which clothes the deceased will wear, choosing the grave marker and what will be written on it, picking out the urn for the cremated remains, choosing the location to spread the ashes, selecting the burial site, selecting flowers/music/readings for the service, participating in the service, closing the casket for the last time, or being involved in that process.
After the service, whether or not children attend or participate, it's important to remember that they still want to have choices. Some of these include: Would you like to sleep at home or elsewhere tonight? What possessions, if any, would you like to keep that belonged to the person who died? When do you think you'll be ready to return to school? Do you want to see the cremated remains? Would you like to see the death certificate or the obituary? Would you like to talk to other kids about your grief in a support group? How would you like to memorialize the person wo died on the anniversary of the death or on their birthday?
What happens, or doesn't happen, at a funeral will be remembered forever by a child. Parents, friends, and funeral directors have the opportunity to positively influence a child's experience through the advice given to parents, and through including children in the one way they most deserve and request: informed choice.
When should I bring my child to The Healing Place?
There is no universal "right time" to seek support. Sometimes families come to us right after a death. Sometimes children aren't ready to talk about it until some time has passed and they have had a chance to process it on their own. We are flexible and want you to make the decision that is right for your family. Here are some indicators that a child may need additional, professional support:
Prolonged depression or anxiety
Significant difficulties at school
Interference in their daily routines including significant changes in sleeping or eating
Withdrawing from activities, including play
Chronic digestive issues or complaints of physical pain
Thoughts of harming themselves or others
Is ______ a normal reaction to grief?
Typical reactions to grief vary depending on a child's age, their developmental level, the nature of their relationship with the deceased, the circumstances of the death, their past experiences with grief, their current support networks, and other factors that are unique to each child/teen. It is important to remember that grief is a normal reaction to loss, and not necessarily a cause for concern as long as the child is being supported and allowed to express their grief, and as long as the grief symptoms do not persist in a way that causes extended problems for their normal functioning. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to grieve a loss, but here is a list of typical grief reactions in children and teens, broken down by developmental level.