Supporting Our Jersey City Children in Grief
The NY Life Foundation estimates that 1 in 7 Americans will lose a parent or sibling before the age of 25. And according to Good Grief, this translates to over 280,000 grieving children and adolescents under the age of 18 in the state of New Jersey. So that no child has to ever grieve alone, Good Grief provides free, innovative, and comprehensive bereavement care through family coaching, peer support, education, and advocacy.
Childhood bereavement is an adversity like neglect, abuse, and abandonment. Grief can have physiological ramifications that lead to toxic stress, which can even change the architectural reconstruction of a child’s brain. Social, emotional, and cognitive development can be impaired, resulting in unhealthy behaviors that manifest as obesity, substance abuse, heart disease and diabetes. Bottomline – an overall decrease in life expectancy.
In recent years, HealthierJC increasingly recognized that urban youth coping with trauma had limited access to grief support resources. They welcomed the launch of In Community, a program developed by Good Grief in partnership with RWJBarnabas and Big Brothers Big Sisters, with funding from New York Life Foundation. In Community was designed to address the unique and underserved needs of childhood bereavement in urban environments, and is the first of its kind in the state of New Jersey.
The Jersey City “In Community” Program
The In Community program was implemented in Jersey City for urban children age 6 to 18 years, and their caregivers grieving the loss of someone significant in their lives.
Per the guidance of HealthierJC, the initial cycle of the In Community program was conducted in the Greenville section of Jersey City, and hosted at the Dr. Lena Edwards Academic Charter School in Ward F. Over a nine-week period, 11 children and their families participated in weekly sessions to share trauma experiences, understand grief, and learn grief coping mechanisms.
Adapting to life after a loved one dies is traumatic. Everyone that interacts with a grieving child requires education and resources to effectively provide support, and mitigate negative emotional and physical health outcomes. The In Community program provides a space for children, teens, and families to connect, share and learn from each other. It follows a structured lesson plan covering the following topics: Meaning & Identity, Self-Advocacy, Social Ecologies, Support Systems, Competency, Communication, Prevention, Resiliency, Continuing Bonds, and Peer Support.
Program Results and Moving Forward…
The HealthierJC mini-grant funding of the In Community program enabled Good Grief to counsel a total of 47 children from 20 families across Jersey City. In response to the 2020 pandemic, weekly grief counseling sessions were successfully transitioned from in-person to virtual remote participation. Based on surveys and testimonials from the Jersey City program, Good Grief clearly makes a real difference in the lives of children whose lives have been traumatized and disrupted by death and violent circumstance.
The findings of exit surveys administered to both youth and adult participants of the Jersey City In Community, and similar grief counseling programs are provided below:
Moving forward, Good Grief intends to expand its virtual programming to support grief counseling, peer discussion groups, family activities, enrichment programs and volunteer facilitator training. In fact, given bereavement facilitators have been trained in all Jersey City public schools, and the Jersey City Community Charter School, Good Grief Groups can now take place on school premises as needed during the school day. For resources to support unique grief situations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to www.good-grief.org/covid-19/.
Jersey City Health and Human Services will continue to partner with Good Grief on future programming, promote services and events on the HealthierJC website, refer families in need, and connect interested community volunteers.
For more information on this HealthierJC mini-grantee, please visit the Good Grief website at www.good-grief.org/.
And if you are confronting family unit hardships, seeking to alleviate pandemic stress, have any mental health concerns, or suffering from addiction, we urge you to visit our HealthierJC compilation of local, regional and national Mental Health Directory Resources at www.healthierjc.com/mental-health/.