Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Far more data is needed on how best to help children cope with traumatic events–ranging from natural disasters to school shootings to death or family illness–researchers argue in an article published in the journal Pediatrics. From NBC News:
Grief counselors, therapists and social workers have no body of scientific data to draw from when they seek to help traumatized kids, a team of experts reports in Monday’s issue of the journal Pediatrics.
“People come to me and say ‘What works?’ and I answer, ‘We don’t really know,’” says Valerie Forman-Hoffman of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., who led the study.
“I don’t think that what this study is saying is that no treatment works,” Forman-Hoffman said in a telephone interview. ”I think that what our review shows is that we don’t have a good evidence base to make good recommendations.”
The need is clear, Forman-Hoffman and her colleagues say.
“Approximately two-thirds of children and adolescents younger than age 18 years will experience at least one traumatic event, creating a critical need to identify effective child trauma interventions,” they wrote. Traumatic events in this study included the death of a parent, a violent incident at school, wars, or natural disasters. They did not include personal events such as abuse by a parent or sexual abuse.
“Although some children exposed to trauma do not experience long-term negative consequences in terms of psychological and social functioning, many later develop traumatic stress syndromes, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” they added. PTSD in turn can cause depression, and lead to substance abuse, suicide and behavior disorders.
Image: Girl with grief counselor, via Shutterstock
Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Employers should allow grieving parents at least as much medical leave as they do to new parents, according to a campaign launched by two fathers who lost children. CNN.com reports on Barry Kluger, whose daughter was killed in a car accident in 2001, and Kelly Farley, another grieving father, who are pressuring lawmakers to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow for grieving parents to have guaranteed leave from their jobs:
“You have 12 weeks off to have a child,” Kluger said, “but three days off when a child dies. It doesn’t make any sense.”
In summer 2011, after receiving letters from Montanans who had also signed Kluger’s initiative, Sen. John Tester, D-Montana, proposed the Parental Bereavement Act, which would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to incorporate extended, job-protected leave for the loss of a child.
“The senator was struck by it and, like most people, surprised the law wasn’t already taken care of,” said a spokesman from Tester’s office. “We want to see it pass but we don’t have a lot of time left this year.”
The average bereavement leave for a person who loses a child is three days, according to Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, a researcher at Arizona State University and the founder of the MISS Foundation, which provides support to grieving families. Cacciatore has been studying the emotional, social, cognitive, and economic impact of child death on individuals, families and society for almost 20 years.
“The death of a child is one of the most traumatic experiences a human being can endure,” Cacciatore said. “I cannot express to you how incredibly devastating this is to people.”
Experts like Cacciatore explain that without giving parents sufficient time to grieve for their loss, companies and corporations will pay for it in the long run.
Researchers at the Grief Recovery Institute, a nonprofit foundation, measured how situations like death and divorce affect U.S. businesses. According to Russell Friedman, executive director of the institute, the current estimated annual loss due to reduced productivity as an aftereffect of grief is around $225 billion.
“When someone we love dies, we lose the ability to concentrate or focus,” Friedman said. “Your brain doesn’t work right when your heart is broken. That’s why businesses lose money.”
Three months for bereavement leave is a more realistic standard than three days, according to Cacciatore. After 12 weeks, “people are usually past the stage of being stunned and paralyzed by the loss,” she said. “Now they can understand what this loss means.”
Image: Grieving woman, via Shutterstock.
Thursday, August 25th, 2011
A moving story from The Boston Globe reports on a summer camp in western Massachusetts that has, since 2002, been a source of support and much-needed fun for kids whose parents died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Because the kids are aging out of “America’s Camp“–many original campers are now serving as counselors or counselors-in-training–this, the 10th anniversary of the attacks, will be the camp’s last summer.
From the Globe:
For campers, the 10th anniversary marks the end of an era.
“The friends you make here,’’ says Michelle Mathai, a senior at Colby College, “have an understanding of each other no one else has. And it’s the first time people treated us as normal kids.’’
Some campers note that they’ve known their friends at America’s Camp longer than they knew their lost parent.
Michelle was 11, Robert was 9, when their father, Joseph, died in the World Trade Center, where he was attending a business meeting. The following summer, America’s Camp opened. The idea was to give children who had lost a parent in the terrorist attacks a haven where they could escape the grief and curiosity that dogged them.
Seventy-eight children showed up that first summer. Later the camp welcomed a handful of children of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty during the past decade. This year there are 170 campers between ages 7 and 15 – and 105 former campers who are now counselors or counselors in training.
Michelle Mathai is in charge of 9-year-old through 11-year-old campers.
“It’s been funny meeting kids who are the same age now as I was when it happened,’’ she says. “They didn’t know their parent, but they’ve grown up with a sense of exactly what happened.’’
Each August, many of the children return for a week. They have laughed, cried, and formed close bonds. During the year, many keep up with one another and arrange get-togethers. Some say they consider camp a second home, their fellow campers and the counselors a second family.
(image via: http://www.americascamp.org/)
Friday, July 22nd, 2011
The family and religious community of Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old Brooklyn boy who was abducted and brutally murdered earlier this month, is channeling their grief into a call for good works and acts of lovingkindness in the wake of their tragedy. In their first public statement, released today, Rabbi Nachman and Itta Kletzky expressed gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy and concern they have received, and they called on people to memorialize their son by doing good works and contributing to The Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund.
“Let us perpetuate the feeling of collective responsibility and love expressed during the search for Leiby. An additional act of kindness toward your neighbor, or to those less fortunate than you, can go a long, long way toward perfecting our world,” the Kletzkys said in the statement.
The Memorial Fund’s website identifies the missions of the fund. It will:
- Help young orphans cope with tragedy
- Help indigent families feed their children
- Help troubled children at risk
- Help needy children falling behind in school
- Help poor parents clothe their children in dignity
- Help critically ill young children
- Help penniless couples to marry
- Help families going through a critical time in their lives
In other news, the attorney for the accused murdered, Levi Aron, told reporters he is stepping down from the case because of “the horrific way this boy was killed.”
(image via: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/)