Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Charlie Brown's Kids; "Good Grief"

By Shelly Burke, Editor

When Bev Prucha’s husband died she had just turned 34 years old, and was left to raise two small children (ages 2 ½ and 4 ½) by herself. After his death she received invitations to join support groups for widows, but found that most of the ladies attending were much older and didn’t have children at home—children who needed help to cope with the death of a parent.

Bev and two other young widows decided to start a support group for their children. They got the necessary training about death, grief, and grieving, and in January of 1985 Charlie Brown’s Kids met for the first time. Bev says “Charlie Brown’s Kids is for kids affected by the trauma of losing a parent. At that time (during the early 1980’s) there was nothing for younger kids who were trying to cope with that loss. Kids who attend their first meeting of Charlie Brown’s Kids often say how relieved they are when they find someone to talk to, someone who has been through the same trauma, and someone who understands their thoughts and feelings.”

Charlie Brown’s Kids meetings take place every two weeks, and are designed for children age 3-18 (kids are divided into groups by age). During the meetings, led by adults, attendees discuss a topic, hear a relevant story, and express their feelings by writing, drawing, or another activity. Bev recommends kids attending for a full year, and many stay for several years, finding, Bev explains, “a new normal. New beginnings.” (See meeting information at the end of this article.)

Children who lose a parent are at a higher risk for mental health problems (including depression and entering into destructive relationships) during adolescence or young adult- hood, making it very important for them to learn to deal with their grief in constructive and healthy ways. The name “Charlie Brown’s Kids” reflects the purpose of the group; Bev says, “We kept tossing out names but couldn’t find the right one, until someone mentioned Charlie Brown, and how he always says ‘good grief.’ We want to guide these kids through their grief in a “good” way, not a destructive way.”

In 1999 Charlie Brown’s Kids joined with several other organizations to offer HUGS (Helping us Grieve Successfully) Camp, described by Bev as “An all day Charlie Brown’s Kids meeting,” held at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo (see more information at the end of this article). The HUGS website describes the day like this:

Youth are divided into four age groups to be able to more effectively assist them with the grieving process. Adults attending will gain ideas and learn skills to help themselves and their children through the grieving process, as well as attaining additional adult support.

Groups are led by professionals skilled in working with individuals that are grieving. Mental health professionals are also available to address individual concerns.

The theme for the 2011 Day Camp is “Exploring the Circle of Life – Jungle Journey.” Activities are based on the struggles each of us experience throughout our journey through grief. We will explore how adults and children grieve differently.”

Bev’s children are now grown. Bev ends our talk by saying, “When we started Charlie Brown’s Kids there were just three families involved. I had no clue that it would grow so large, and no idea that it would last this long.”

Charlie Brown’s Kids is a non-profit organization, and can always use monetary donations. Volunteers (people with grief experience are preferred) are needed to lead groups, and board members are also needed. For more information go to http://www.charliebrownskids.org/ .

Charlie Brown’s Kids Meetings are held at Sheridan Lutheran Church (6955 Old Cheney Rd in Lincoln, NE) on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month from 6pm to 8pm. Bring your own brown bag supper. Please call ahead; call (402) 483-1845 or contact Bev at bev@charliebrownskids.org.

HUGS Camp is for children and teens, age 5 and up, and their families. The twelfth annual grief camp will be held on Saturday, June 11, 2011, from 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, 1222 S 27nd Street. For more information contact: Kathryn Burklund, Committee Chair, Lincoln Parks and Recreation at (402) 441-4900 or go to http://www.hugscamp.org./

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