Kids often grieve a little bit differently than adults, said Heather Larson, a grief specialist at Hospice of Red River Valley. She believes that, because kids grieve in a different way, special grief classes geared toward that younger age group are important. Hospice of Red River Valley will be offering one soon.
On Aug. 5, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., they'll be hosting an online grieving course called Comfort Pillows for Kids. This class is open to kids ages 8 to 16.
While, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes were in-person and will likely soon be offered in a hybrid format too, Larson said the virtual aspect of these classes makes them open to everyone anywhere, not just in the communities Hospice of Red River Valley serves.
Larson works at the organization's office in Detroit Lakes and serves the community in Perham. She'll be teaching Comfort Pillows for Kids, alongside another grief specialist, who is based out of Grand Forks.
"This class is to help kids learn about grief in general and to give them time to talk about their personal story," Larson said. "It teaches them the importance of taking care of themselves when they're grieving and what that might look like."
In Comfort Pillows for Kids, tie pillows and markers are provided to participants ahead of time. Kids are given the chance to make their pillows and write a note or draw a picture on them to give them something positive to go to when they're having a tougher day.
Anyone, anywhere is welcome to participate in this course, even if they haven't recently lost a loved one or don't live in a community that Hospice of Red River Valley serves.
Larson offered some advice to anyone with a kid who may be struggling with grief or loss. She said that, while kids grieve a little differently than adults, there are some signs to look out for: changes in behavior, changes in sleep habits, changes in nutritional habits and physical complaints.
"One thing we can do to help (kids) is help them identify their feelings and bring them back to where that's stemming from and give them to opportunity to talk about what's going on," Larson said. "Ask open-ended questions to help them through the grieving process."
While Comfort Pillows for Kids is for young people dealing with grief, Hospice of Red River Valley offers free classes for people of all ages. A new class is scheduled for each month. For example, September's Layers of Loss class will help participants deal with all types of loss, even outside of grief. October's class will help people deal with the loss of a pet.
"When you lose a loved one … that feeling of missing that person and feeling alone can be very prevalent for people," Larson said. "(Grief classes) enable the community to come together. It gives you the opportunity to meet people going through a similar experience. People will form a bond they might not form with other people who haven't experienced that loss."
Larson believes these classes can be a great source of comfort and support for those struggling with grief. She also said it gives people an open-minded space to say what they're thinking without the fear of being judged or having their grief minimized.
For more information on all upcoming 2021 classes offered by Hospice of Red River Valley, you can go to hrrv.org/grief-support/2021-grief-class-schedule/.
All grief classes they offer are virtual, free and open to the public, but the organization always appreciates donations. You can register for Hospice of Red River Valley grief classes at hrrv.org/grief-support/2021-grief-class-registration/ or by calling 800-237-4629.