Where does one turn?
My daughter Emalia’s death threw us into unfamiliar territory. As well as dealing with his own grief and working, my son-in-law had their three-year-old son to parent. How best to help him? How best to answer his questions? How best to respond when he told us he missed his mama? What would indicate he was having a harder time than might be expected? Where does a worried parent find answers?
I spent a lot of time online, spoke with a social worker, and learned quickly that other than one Maui agency whose charter restricts them from serving the general population, there was nowhere grieving parents and children could go for help. Creating such a program became my mission.
Nā Keiki O Emalia began running its first groups in September, 2016, and grows stronger all the time as more people become aware of our program. Funding is an ongoing need for sustainability because our program is free to all grieving children and their families; and, we are busy spreading the word in the community so that more people know about us. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
This page is a work in progress so please check back from time to time for updates. In the meantime, if you visit the links mentioned here, you will find valuable activities and additional reading material on their RESOURCES pages. Also, The Dougy Center lists children’s bereavement programs by geographical area, and you might find a wonderful program near your home that you might contact.
In the meantime, here are some resources we have found helpful.
National Alliance for Grieving Children: www.NationalAllianceForGrievingChildren.org (This site has an extensive resource section with activities, book recommendations, and other helpful information.)
Lili’uokalani Trust: www.qlcc.org (runs bereavement groups in Hawaii for children and teens of Hawaiian ancestry)
The Dougy Center: www.dougy.org
Kids Hurt Too (Oahu, HI): www.GrievingYouth.org
Actively Moving Forward: HealGrief.org/ActivelyMovingForward (AMF has served thousands of college students across the U.S.)
Structure and stability are important for children and teens to have in their daily lives after the loss of a loved one.
Answer young children’s questions simply and briefly. As your child gets older, his or her questions will become more complex – at this time, the child can process more information.
Toddlers have a short attention span: your child may ask a heartbreaking question, listen attentively to your short answer, and immediately go on to the next thing that catches his or her attention.
Stomach aches, problems with sleeping or eating, tantrums, and hitting or throwing things could all indicate your child is having difficulty – especially if these behaviors are not normal for him or her.
Talk about the person who died. If such conversation is avoided, children sense they cannot speak about their loved one who died and this silencing can impede the child’s grieving in a normal, healthy manner.
Encourage your child to draw pictures of the person who died, of their feelings, of happy times.
Be honest with your child when telling them about their loved one's death. How much information you give them depends on their age, but older children and teens want to know the facts. If you don't tell them, they may imagine worse scenarios than actually occurred. Also, they may hear other people talk--both rumors and fact--and be hurt if they've not heard what happened from you.
Older children and teens can write stories or compose poetry about their loved one who is no longer alive.
Let your child know you’re there for them but don’t hover. Give your child or teen space!
Journaling feelings and thoughts is a helpful way of processing one’s grief.
Nā Keiki o Emalia is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
You can help Nā Keiki o Emalia by making a financial gift of any amount or by volunteering.