The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas was founded by Dr. Martha Atkins in 1997 with the mission to foster healing for grieving youth, their families and the community through peer support programs, counseling, training, education and outreach. Over the past 19 years the Center has grown from offering one peer support group serving 19 families, into a program that offers individual counseling and eleven different peer support groups that serve more than 1,500 individuals each year, 60% of whom are children between the ages of 3 and 24.
Peer-support groups are the foundation of the Children’s Bereavement Center (the Center) programs and are offered at no cost to families. These groups are designed to help families from every social and economic circumstance develop the relationships and tools needed to cope with a significant death loss. Research has shown peer support to be most effective in helping individuals heal after the death of a loved one. In addition to these groups, the Center also provides: individual and family counseling; the Grief Education Institute (GEI), which provides training for local professionals several times each year by nationally-recognized speakers; grief camps for children who are unable to attend bi-weekly peer support groups due to complications such as lack of transportation or parents who work evenings; and school-based sites which give teens easier access to grief support services. The ultimate goal of the Center’s program is to stabilize the family and prevent dysfunctional behaviors and unhealthy outcomes for grieving children.
The death of a parent or significant loved one during childhood can have profound and lasting effects. Grieving the loss of a loved one is a complex and difficult process, especially for a child. Grieving children are likely to feel abnormal in relation to their peers, and very alone. While experiencing deep emotional pain, anxiety, and fear, children may feel additional pressure from adult caregivers to meet expectations for emotional health and academic growth.
Unresolved grief in children can be exhibited as physical illness, depression, aggression, hyperactivity, anxiety, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, decreased academic performance, and other dysfunctional behaviors. Indeed, research has shown that 86% of alcoholics who begin to drink in adolescence (as most alcoholics report) started this behavior following a loss.
A study by the New York Life Foundation, The Grief Journey of a Child, reported the following results when children were asked to respond to this statement: “As a result of my loved one’s death, I have…”
- Acted in ways that I know are not good for me (41%)
- Said hurtful things to others (34%)
- Hurt myself physically in some way (20%)
- Broke things or damaged property (15%)
The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas is the sole provider of on-going, youth-focused grief support for families in San Antonio and the South Texas area. Most services are provided free of charge. Programs at the Center are designed to help children and families process the psychological and emotional challenges of death and loss in an environment designed to be safe and nurturing for both children and their caregivers.
Our September 2016 Nerd Night events will be gathering teddy bears, art supplies, gift cards, snacks and other materials used by the Center in their important work helping South Texas children and their families. Visit CBCST’s website to learn more about their wonderful programs and staff!