by Betsy Natter
Did you know that nearly 2.5 million children in the U.S. under the age of 18 will lose one or both of their parents due to death or other significant event? While that number represents only about 2% of American kids, the impact of such a loss is far reaching. Grieving children are at risk for depression, anxiety, regressive behaviors, decreased performance in school, alcohol and drug abuse, incarceration and suicide. Additionally, if the grief they experience remains unresolved, it carries over into adult life and significantly influences other relationships.
That’s why organizations like Hands Holding Hearts are crucial to children and their families who need bereavement resources and help. Hands Holding Hearts is a Buck County non-profit that provides resources to families as they grieve the loss or death of a significant person in their lives. Under the guidance of a licensed clinical social worker and a certified grief counselor, trained volunteers address the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of grief as families learn to cope with new situations.
It is no wonder that Hands Holding Hearts’s motto is “holding hands until hearts heal.” Research studies repeatedly show that face-to-face human interaction and even basic physical contact such as holding hands can reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and depression. The simple act of holding a hand releases oxytocin, a brain chemical that increases feelings of trust, empathy and desire to build relationships.
Still, much of the organization’s “hand holding” is not necessarily literal, but comes through education and by providing opportunities for positive social interaction. Leaders teach about the grief process and allow individuals to express themselves through talking and other exercises. They provide techniques for positive coping and to increase self-esteem as well as seek to strengthen parent-child relationships.
The organization holds workshops for children as well as a Summer Series, a camp environment where kids can work their way through the grief process with others who are going through similar experiences. The summer program includes activities, art projects and games all designed to promote healing.
Hands Holding Hearts also provides many resources on their website to help families talk about death. Topics include how to deliver bad news to children, talking about miscarriage or perinatal loss and discussing the loss of a pet. Additionally, they provide suggested reading lists for both adults and children and a list of other support organizations. Visit the Resources page at handsholdinghearts.org or here to view these resources.
How to Help
If you are interested in supporting the work of Hands Holding Hearts, donations can be made by check or through PayPal using the link on their website. You can also select the organization as your charity when you shop using Amazon Smile. Interested in volunteering? Everyone working with the organization must complete background checks and submit an application through the website as well. Material donations of art supplies is also welcomed.