Heartworks Grief Support Group
When children and teens experience the passing of a loved one, they can become overwhelmed by their emotions and have many questions. Children often have a difficult time expressing their feelings of mourning and grief. Spending time with other children who also have experienced a loss can provide a safe place for talking about those feelings. They soon realize that there are others who feel the way they do. Participating in a children’s grief support group has been proven to be helpful even years following a loss. This process helps children learn to cope in a healthy way that restores their sense of control and hope.
Heartworks is a family-based support program for grieving children, teens and their families that offers support for:
- Middle School
- High School
- Parent(s)/ cargiver(s) of enrolled children/teens
There is a myth that you only need a support group if you are having problems. Most families who have experienced the loss of a loved one can benefit from a Heartworks grief support group. In our hurried society, we often don’t allow time to cope with the feelings we have when a loved one dies. A loved ones absence brings changes that are hard to explain and understand; also, children need to be given time to remember their loved one.
Our groups give a time and a place to regularly work through these tasks with the support of others who understand, as they are going through similar losses. Children and teens often need the opportunity to talk about their feelings. This can be through group discussion, art, music and drama. It is through this process that a child begins to heal and make sense of what has happened to them. Coming to our program as a family gives additional benefits of support among all family members.
Groups meet twice a month from September to May on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at Williamsport Regional Medical Center, Divine Providence Campus, 3rd floor, 1100 Grampian Boulevard, Williamsport. A light meal is served from 6 p.m. - 6:30 p.m., followed by the group meeting from 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
This program is free, but pre-registration is required.
Heartworks children's grief support group summer family session.
For some families, the Heartworks evening meetings may either not fit into their schedule or may not be able to travel the distance on a weeknight. We offer a summer session for 5 hours on a Saturday in July (lunch is included). The session includes both whole family activities and age group divided sessions.
For more information on this program, please contact Linda Bryant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
or call 888-499-3177 or 570-320-7691.
Heartworks' volunteers are specially trained and dedicated individuals united by their love for children. Our comprehensive training program provides volunteers with the tools they need to give loving and compassionate support to grieving children, teens and their families.
Heartworks is an informational resource for parents, schools, churches and community groups. Our staff is available for presentations or workshops that are tailored to the needs of the organization.
Grief Support Brochures
Highmark Caring Place is a grief support program that has had a major influence on the development of Heartworks. They have developed a number of brochures for families and professionals that provide information on grief. Please visit Highmark Caring Place for more information.
For more information contact Linda Bryant at email@example.com.
Eight-year-old Jocelyn Hyde smiles as she sits on her couch holding a keepsake box filled with memories of her father who died over a year ago.
“One time when we were making apple pies, dad thought he burnt one,” she giggles. “He opened the windows and the door to get the smell out. He was waving the oven mitt… It was funny.”
As she goes through her collection of special reminders of her father, a project spearheaded by Heartworks, a Children’s Bereavement program by Susquehanna Health Home Care and Hospice, she beams with enthusiasm and her talk becomes animated.
“My dad loved basketball, ESPN, baseball, prime rib and he smelled like this,” she says as she inhales his cologne that she sprayed on a piece of paper.
But it wasn’t too long ago that Jocelyn wouldn’t talk about her father. Despite an outpouring of support from her mother, family and friends, the youngster became quiet and internalized her emotions.
“She had trouble sleeping. She wouldn’t talk to me about her dad because she was afraid she would make me sad,” says her mother, Sue Hyde. “When I talked to her, she’d shut down. I knew we needed help. She kept a lot of things bottled up.”
That’s when Mrs. Hyde turned to Heartworks, a support group that helps children and teens cope with loss through tools, like art, play time, journaling and music. Meeting twice a month, parents and caregivers also attend so that the entire family can explore their feelings in a safe supportive environment.
“The program is amazing. Jocelyn met lots of other kids who have experienced loss. She knew she wasn’t alone,” says Mrs. Hyde. “As a parent, they taught me how to help Jocelyn get through this. You get another voice of reason from other parents who are going through the same thing.”
According to Jocelyn, her favorite part of the program was playing board games that helped discuss her feelings about her father’s death.
“We played a game that had red, green and yellow cards. It helped us talk about dealing with loss,” says Jocelyn. “The program was amazing. It made me realize that I wasn't alone with my feelings. After going to Heartworks, I feel better. I am not so angry. I am still sad, but I will always be sad because I don’t have my dad, but now I know it’s okay to have those feelings.”
Mrs. Hyde learned of the program when a Heartworks representative visited her as her husband of eight years, Brad— and Jocelyn’s father— was in Susquehanna Health ICU losing his battle with cancer in July 2011.
For four years, Mr. Hyde courageously fought health battles that began with his 2007 diagnosis of a sarcoma—soft tissue cancer—on his upper right thigh. Two years later, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and endured a stem cell transplant. In February of 2011, the sarcoma returned in his lungs and he underwent a bilateral lung resection to remove additional tumors.
During his medical trials, the mother and daughter caregiver team offered him physical and emotional support.
“Jocelyn helped flush his pic lines and helped with his shots. She was very involved in his care. After he died, she gave a beautiful speech at Brad’s service to over 500 people,” says Mrs. Hyde.
Shortly after Mr. Hyde’s initial diagnosis, he organized a Relay for Life team in Williamsport, which Mrs. Hyde and Jocelyn both assisted with. Now the dynamic duo does their best to honor their loved one’s legacy as they volunteer on the Relay for Life Committee.
Together, they also plan on attending another session of Heartworks this fall to continue to keep communication barriers open between them.
“Brad was such an amazing part of our lives. He was such a special person and will be forever missed,” says Mrs. Hyde. “Talking about him helps keep him alive in our hearts and we have Heartworks to thank for that.”
Fourteen-year-old Morgan Young believes that everybody goes through “something” in life.
“Some of us just have it harder,” she says as she sits in the teen room at Heartworks, a grief support program for children, teens and their families.
Fighting back tears, the long-haired, blue-eyed girl looks across the table at her mother, Melissa for strength. The mother and daughter attended the Heartworks program, which offers support in a safe, caring environment.
“Every aspect of the program was helpful. It gave us the time to process what happened in our life,” says Melissa.
Morgan’s father, Michael battled a prescription drug addiction and died unexpectedly of an overdose after being released from the Lycoming County Pre-Release Center, a structured
community corrections facility.
“He was a wonderful father to Morgan,” says Melissa, who despite being divorced from him still had a friendly relationship with him. “He was my best friend. He was someone you could call day or night and he would be there.”
As a construction worker by trade, Michael had chronic back issues and became dependent on pain killers to get through life. Even his addiction didn’t stop him from offering unconditional love to his family. Before dying in 2011 at age 49, he stood by Morgan’s side as she battled aggressive cancer in 2010.
"He was the strong one. When I cried, he wouldn't. He was the first face I saw after my surgeries," says Morgan. "He helped me through in-patient chemotherapy and stayed with me for days at a time. He would run home and get a shower and come right back."
Morgan has sweet memories of her dad making her hot cocoa during sled riding, taking her to Highknob Lookout and hosting family cookouts.
“He was just a great person and loved unconditionally,” says Melissa. “We had such high hopes for him for when he was released. He did so well in pre-release and even became a cook there.” Morgan added, “It was like I had my old dad back.”
So when Michael died, Morgan felt like she was dying inside. "I just couldn't bear it," she says.
Melissa didn’t know how to help her. Despite private counseling and support from her school counselor, Morgan's grades began slipping and her friends at school began to avoid her.
"Most of my friends have both of their parents and they just didn’t understand what it is like. They don't like to talk about it and wouldn't talk about it."
Morgan found out about Heartworks from a program volunteer. Melissa admitted that Morgan asked her to participate in the program several times.
“I hesitated because I didn't know if Morgan was ready and if I would be comfortable coming to the group.”
After the first night it became apparent that her fears were unfounded.
“We don’t have a big family, but I realized quickly that we were gaining family by attending,” says Melissa. “It was a relaxed and welcoming setting with committed volunteers. They reminded me that I had to take care of myself before I could take care of others.”
For Morgan, Heartworks made her realize that she is not alone—a gift she calls priceless.
“My life got easier after coming to Heartworks. You instantly have a bond with other kids there. You know what they were going through and they know what you were going through. You can’t get that anywhere else.”
What Children Are Saying
“It feels like they’re my family. It feels like I have known them forever.”
“Heartworks is a place where you belong if you lost a loved one. And if you want to come you might be happy. IT IS FUN!!!!! I talk to them because they feel like my family”
“I thought I was the only one feeling this way.”
“Heartworks is cool, Heartworks is great, Heartworks is fun.”
What Parents Are Saying
“My son learned he wasn’t alone in his grief. He met others who had experienced loss and most importantly, he was able to understand that his feelings were normal.”
“Heartworks has helped me understand what my daughter is going through so I can support her.”
“Heartworks is a safe place to express verbally thoughts, feelings, questions, and doubts that are normally held within.”
“It is helpful to be able to see that others are having the same types of feelings as well.”
“Just feeling that we are not alone and we are around others going through the same journey is helpful.”
UPMC Susquehanna is here to help you and your family through difficult times with grief support groups in Williamsport and Wellsboro, PA, and the surrounding areas.