Helping Children Deal With Loss
By Cynthia White, executive director, Kids Hurt Too Hawaii
Nicole Puente is the first to admit that her divorce six years ago from her children’s father wasn’t easy on them. It pains them still.
But the 35-year-old patient-care representative for a local hospital insists that staying in an abusive relationship for the sake of her children – Adriana, 13, and Andre, 11 – was not an option.
“I needed as much help as possible for all of us to understand that the divorce was permanent,” Puente says. “I needed them to see that they weren’t by themselves. Kids Hurt Too Hawaii allowed them to see other kids who were going through the same situation. It made them more aware of their feelings and helped them better express their feelings.”
Puente’s two children are among the more than 250 grieving children, between ages 3 and 19, who every year turn to Kids Hurt Too Hawaii for a safe space to express feelings about the loss of a parent to divorce, death or incarceration.
Kids Hurt Too Hawaii was created about 14 years ago as a kind of support group. At a young age, I learned that traumatized children desperately need loving comfort. I was abandoned by my parents at age 6 and forced to draw strength from a foster family.
For that reason, my professional life has been devoted to developing an expertise in helping transform a traumatized child’s grief and pain into acceptance and self-esteem.
While Kids Hurt Too Hawaii has benefited from various grants and the civic generosity of local businesses as well as individuals, its greatest challenge remains raising funds and engaging volunteers.
But to continue to meet its obligation to the children of these families over the next year, Kids Hurt Too Hawaii will need to raise $900 per child. The proceeds go to mentoring and peer-support group programs designed to help children like Adriana and Andre who have struggled with sadness and feelings of isolation, and draw strength from the kind of support and resources that have proven to restore hope to grief-stricken children.
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