Little Company of Mary’s Heart Connection Program Offers Children Healthy Ways to Grief the Loss of a Loved One
At Little Company of Mary Hospital, ‘caring for the community’ means going beyond the physical needs of area residents. Through a variety of programs and services, the hospital tends to both emotional and spiritual needs. Heart Connections is a special program designed to help bereaved children cope with the loss of a loved one. During the past 17 years, Heart Connections has served more than 900 families and more than 1,300 children and teens.
Little Company of Mary’s Heart Connection grief support program was named a 2012 Program of Excellence as a part of the Hospital Charitable Services Awards, a national program sponsored by Jackson Healthcare, which recognizes programs demonstrating sustainable community impact.
Little Company of Mary’s Heart Connection program is a unique program of its kind in Chicago Southwest side area. Little Company of Mary was the first to bring bereavement services of its kind to the community. Proving much needed grief support to an underserved population that was grieving and dealing with the pain of loss of a loved one in silence. “The program truly indicates the community’s need to be served, supported, and guided while they grieve the death of their loved one,” said Peg Schneider, Chaplain in the Pastoral Care department, and co-coordinator of Heart Connection and Bereavement Services at Little Company of Mary. The mission of the program is to provide a safe and trusting environment for both the children and teens of the community.
The eight-week program is offered twice a year, with 30 to 50 children participating in each session. The children meet weekly for 75 minutes with a group of children of the same age. A team of 20 volunteer grief counselors use a variety of creative activities, such as music therapy, poetry and art, to help the kids express their grief.
Parents or guardians meet separately and receive counseling and support of their own. Recently added, was the Spanish-language counseling to better serve the growing Hispanic participants. The program serves a culturally and economically diverse group of families from Chicago and its southwest suburbs and it is provided at no charge. Heart Connections is funded primarily by Little Company of Mary, with some additional support from donors and foundations.
In addition, the hospital added a separate program, when Death comes to the classroom for educators. “When kids don’t get help, they can have unresolved grief and it can affect them the rest of their lives,” says Meghan Llanes, LCWS at Little Company of Mary. ”Here, they can connect with kids who are going through the something similar; they can get support and have a place to talk about their grief.”
Enrollment in the program is recommended at least three months after the death of a loved one; however, consideration is always given to the family circumstances of loss. For more information on Little Company of Mary’s Heart Connection grief support programs include dates and times, please call the Pastoral Care Department at 708-229-5484.