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that has people talking!

* meet the people who make it happen!

learn how


can benefit your child


important reminders for grieving children

Fall 2012 | | 1

the start of something new If you’ve been keeping up with Supporting Kidds this past summer, then you may have noticed changes in their website, electronic newsletter and flyers for upcoming events. If so, then I’ve done something right. As a University of Delaware Visual Communications major, I’m having an amazing opportunity devoting my time with Supporting Kidds to visually enhance “their look”. Nonetheless, my main goal this past summer was to introduce something fresh and new. That is why, I’m more than happy to introduce the first ever Supporting Kidds magazine! I hope this magazine, and others to come, will encourage you to become more supportive and involved, but more importantly knowledgeable, about this non-profit organization. Supporting Kidds’ main goal is to serve the community, and meet it’s needs, so if there is a story, topic or question you’d like to be covered, we’d love to hear from you.


1213 Old Lancaster Pike Hockessin, DE 19707 302-235-5544


Until next time,

OFFICE MANAGER Debbie Throckmorton Cassy Galon, University of Delaware


Thank You to Our Recent Major Supporters ($10,000 and up) Argus Information and Advisory Services AstraZeneca Bank of America Barclaycard US Carrington Foundation Delaware Community Foundation State of Delaware (Grant-in-Aid) Hockessin Athletic Club J Christian Studio Longwood Foundation Stephen & Janine Marrone Foundation Mustaches for Kidds National Alliance of Grieving Children New York Life Foundation Rivendell Foundation

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 Traci Bolander Bill Bowlsbey Thomas Burke Michael Kutner Eric Monzo Nancy Moshel Matthew Rice Matthew Schlitz Ellen Spoehr Coleen Toy

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For over 20 years, Supporting Kidds has been bringing comfort and support to those who are grieving. Learn more about this non-profit organization.

Grieving children and their families are in good hands when they come to Supporting Kidds. Meet the staff that make it possible every day.


Ten important reminders for children who have suffered a loss.


It stunned people all around the country to hear what a newspaper advice columnist told a concerned mother whose son had just lost his father due to a sudden death. Supporting Kidds would like to offer an alternate response.



The practice of yoga offers a pathway for acknowledging the multitude of thoughts and emotions associated with grief. Through yoga practice, a child can find space to acknowledge and sit with the many facets of his or her grief, without the need to disavow challenging thoughts, emotions, or experiences. BY DR. MALINA SPIRITO

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Children look to adults for cues for dealing with new circumstances following a death. Yet parents and guardians often are overwhelmed or unsure about how to help them.

Supporting Kidds can help. Our Mission To provide a compassionate pathway to healing for grieving children and their families, and to empower the community to support them in the grieving process.

We Believe When provided with support, grieving children and their families can mobilize their own capacities to heal. A knowledgeable and caring community is an essential aid in this process.

What We Do We are a comprehensive center for supporting and educating bereaved children, their families, and the larger communities in which they live. We wish to respond directly to the needs of the community, and therefore offer an evolving menu of programs and services, both at our center and in collaboration with interested partners that serve children.

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How We Help

Professional Development Training seminars regarding loss, death, and grief and how best to support grieving children and their families. For school, medical, mental health, religious, and funeral home professionals, for example. Held at Supporting Kidds or off-site.

Educational Programs Educational programs about loss and grief in children and their families. For clubs, coaches, community groups, parents, students and other who might encounter grieving children. Held at Supporting Kidds or off-site.

Information & Referral Services To assist grieving children and families in locating additional services and materials that can be helpful as they adjust to their loss. 6 | | Fall 2012

Community Impact in 2011 • 200 grieving children and families helped • 1,450 hours of direct services • 106 Family Survival Kits distributed, free-of-charge to grieving families. • 438 School Survival Kits distributed (one to every school in DE), free - funded by the Longwood Foundation • 1,100 people reached through grief-focused presentations

Lending Library Extensive collection of resources focused on grieving and coping with loss, as well as familiy, communication and general coping skills, for families and helping professionals. Free and open to the public.

Support and Theraputic Services Guiding Pathways * Our clinical services are intended to serve those clients who have needs extending beyond what is addressed within our support group programs. We recognize that while grief is a normal process and not necessarily indicative of a need for mental health intervention, families often face a number of challenges that complicate the grief process. Consultation, grief assessment, and individual and family psychotherapy services help address the unique challenges and concerns of grieving families. These services can help children, ages 3 to young adult, and their families find ways to make sense of the losses they have experienced, while addressing behavioral concerns and bolstering the communication and coping skills necessary to help manage current and future stressors. Families interested in learning more about the clinical services available at Supporting Kidds can contact a member of the clinical team in order to determine the best course of action for the family. 302-235-5544 or

Healing Pathways * Our 6-week bereavement support group, Healing Pathways, represents the cornerstone of Supporting Kidds’ prevention-based support programs. Healing Pathways provides grieving children the opportunity to spend time with same-aged peers who are experiencing similar situations. This program addresses multiple topics and issues pertaining to the normal grief process, and thus is appropriate for all children grieving the loss of an immediate family member—it is not simply for those who are experiencing considerable challenges in their grief. This program is open to grieving children, ages 5-18, and their caregivers. Each week of Healing Pathways is structured around a theme that relates to healthy grieving. Children interact with one another to share and learn about the various experiences of group participants and the grief process. Each group addresses the topics of emotions, remembering the deceased, and planning for ways to continue the emotional bond with the person who died, while looking toward the future. Our highly skilled volunteer facilitators provide children and their families with a safe environment, validation of their losses, and the necessary information and tools so participants can grow through the grief process and cope effectively with loss.

* All services to families are offered on a sliding-scale fee basis. Fall 2012 | | 7

Meet the People Who Make It Happen.... Stephanie Traynor Psy.D., MBA Executive Director

Dr. Traynor is a licensed psychologist who received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Master’s in Business Administration from Widener University. In addition, she earned a Master of Arts in Spanish from the University of Delaware and is a fluent Spanish speaker. Since completing her graduate work, Dr. Traynor has worked in several community non-profits and universities and previously served as the Director of Mental Health Services at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington, Delaware. She is currently President-Elect for the Delaware Psychological Association, Co-Chair of the Grief Awareness Consortium, and Co-Chair of the Advisory Council of the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services.

Carol Boncelet Development Director

Carol coordinates our special events, handles public relations and communications, and is responsible for fundraising (so we can continue to offer our services on a sliding-fee basis, making our services affordable to all). She welcomes all volunteers! Carol has over 25 years of experience in corporate, small business, and non-profit settings. She has an MPA and BS degree and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Malina Spirito Psy.D., M.Ed. Clinical Director

Dr. Spirito is a licensed psychologist who earned both her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and a Master of Education in Human Sexuality Education from Widener University. She attained a Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, where she studied psychology and sociology. Dr. Spirito oversees all clinical and program-related services including support groups, intern and facilitator training and supervision, professional development trainings, and community outreach. Her years of clinal experience include working with children in school and community settings. One of her student training years was spent as Supporting Kidds before it was located to our current facility in Hockessin.

Debbie Throckmorton Office Manager

Debbie serves as the public’s first point of contact with the organization. Additionally she assists the Executive, Program, and Development Staff in a wide range of administrative tasks and manages the general office functions on a daily basis. Debbie has over 25 years of experience in administration and management, as well as accounting and financial practices, and has worked for both corporate and privately held companies.

...Teamwork At Its Best! 8 | | Fall 2012

Volunteers are always welcome

Winner of the 2011 Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Award for an agency in the health field

You are invited to tour our Hockessin center! Learn more about Supporting Kidds and the important ways that we help grieving children and their families.


Free 1-hour tour. Please RSVP at or 302–235–5544


August 22

12 PM


September 20

10 AM


October 18

7 PM


November 15

12 PM


December 11

12 PM

2013 Thursday

January 17

12 PM


June 19

12 PM


February 20

12 PM


July 23

7 PM


March 19

10 AM


August 21

10 AM


April 25

7 PM


September 19

12 PM


May 21

10 AM


October 24

7 PM


If you feel sad, angry, worried, or lonely, let your feelings out. Talk to people you trust. You will feel better, and they will be glad you trusted them.


When someone dies, most kids have strong, scary feelings: sad, mad, lonely, worried, confused. This is a normal reaction called grief. Grief takes time and work, but you will manage it and be okay.


It is scary when someone close to you dies. You may wonder if someone else will die, if you are safe, and who will take care of you. There will always be a grown-up to take care of you. Most of us live long, healthy lives.


When a person dies, it is forever. You cannot do anything to make the person come back to life. Death is final. You can find a way to adapt to this new reality.

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It’s natural to feel guilty. You may worry about an argument or a time when you were so mad that you wished the person would go away. You may wonder whether something you said or did caused the death. Everyone gets mad sometimes, even people who love each other. The death was not your fault.


Ask questions about the death or all the changes that are happening. Even grownups might not have all the answers, but they love you and want to help.

08 When Someone You Love Dies:

Don’t worry if you sometimes have fun playing ball, hanging out with friends, or watching TV. It’s OK to feel good. Kids are supposed to play, even when they are grieving.

10 Important Reminders for Kids


Talk about the person who died. Talk about hobbies, funny things the person did, things the person taught you, how you are similar to the person, what you liked most and disliked most about the person. Talking about the person helps you remember and celebrate the person’s life.


Grown-ups also grieve. Often they are better at handling these difficult feelings but sometimes they are overwhelmed too. It’s hard to see them upset and confused. But little by little, they will feel better too.


It’s natural to feel angry. You may want to scream, “Why did this happen?” “Whose fault is it?” “Why did you leave me?” “Why didn’t anybody stop it?”

Supporting Kidds provides services to children and their families on a sliding-scale fee basis. We want to make sure that all families can access our services. Almost 90% of our budget comes from fundraising events, grants, foundations, corporations, and caring individuals. You can make a donation on our website or by mailing a check. You can also help by providing any of these items:

Our Wish List • Magazine subscriptions for our waiting room • Toilet paper, paper towels, kitchen trash bags • Bottled water, juice boxes, caffeine-free sodas for our support groups • Books related to healthy grieving (contact us for details) • Seasonal plants for our porches • Cases of individual healthy snacks (no nuts) for our support groups • Fabric tablecloth with Supporting Kidds name, for use at outreach events • Printing services for our Family Survival Kit and brochure, mailed free to grieving families • Printing services for our School Survival Kit, mailed to schools upon request • Projector to use with a laptop computer • New computers and printers • Cleaning service for a year • Regular weeding and tending to grounds • Periodic home maintenance

Help Us Help the Kids

Please contact us for details or to make your own suggestions! Checks can mailed to Supporting Kidds 1213 Old Lancaster Pike Hockessin, DE 19707

Supporting Kidds is a 501(c)3 non-profit, ID #51-0320207. Your gift is fully tax-deductible as allowed by law. Fall 2012 | | 11

Yoga for Grieving Children

By: Dr. Malina Spirito

12 | | Fall 2012

Managing loss and the grief reactions that follow are challenging aspects of the human experience. Grief brings forth a wave of emotional, physical, and cognitive experiences; for the grieving child these reactions are often unfamiliar and can be very frightening.

Fall 2012 | | 13


imply learning how to identify our emotional grief reactions they will experience throughout life. and cognitive reactions is a tremendous part Yoga can be a valuable component to a child’s of healthy “grief work” for children. Equally grief work and the development of healthy coping skills important is helping a grieving child to devel- to be used across the lifespan. The practice of yoga is neiop a repertoire of coping skills, a “tool box” ther purely physical, nor purely mental; practicing yoga so to speak, that a involves addressing the needs of yoga guides grieving children child can reach for as both the mind and the body. Yoga to look within the self for the involves tapping into one’s breath, he or she grapples to manage the various physical, emotional, and strength and power to persevere thoughts, posture, emotions, and cognitive reactions that follow a lifestyle in order to foster healthy in the face of loss loss. The range of a child’s grief self-awareness and capacity for reactions can be far reaching, and may include bouts of moving toward one’s goals. It is often incredibly difficult intense emotional distress, difficulty with sleep, impaired for a grieving child to summarize the grief experience simability to focus and concentrate, and the development ply with words, thus the multidimensional focus of yoga of nagging physical complaints, such as fatigue, restless- is especially suitable to the unique needs of children. ness, and headaches. Therefore, it is essential that griev- The practice of yoga offers a pathway for acknowling children develop and continue to enhance a wide-range edging the multitude of challenging thoughts and emotions of coping skills that can be used to address the various associated with grief. Through yoga practice, a child can 14 | | Fall 2012

find space to acknowledge, and sit with, the many facets of his or her grief, without the need to disavow challenging thoughts, emotions, or experiences. At the same time, the practice of yoga guides grieving children to look within the self for the strength and power to persevere in the face of loss. The foundations of yoga fully support the notion that grief is not all illness to be treated; it is a human condition to be experienced. By engaging in yoga, grieving children are reassured that all humans, especially children, possess the innate power to sit with and endure even the most painful and challenging emotions and then grow from them. Perhaps most importantly, yoga is fun. Children of all ages can identify with the animal names and playful references used for various poses and guided imagery tasks. While the benefits of yoga are far-reaching, the in-the-moment experience can be fun and playful. Grief is a full body experience. Grief impacts our minds, emotions, and bodies. Yoga poses, controlled breathing,

guided imagery, and meditation can help facilitate grief work, while easing physical and emotional tension and quieting the restless mind. Practicing yoga can help enhance a child’s sense of self-control and self-efficacy, while strengthening the body and soothing the mind. Practicing yoga will not take a child’s grief away, but it can help him or her find ways to make living with grief more manageable. Dr. Spirito is Supporting Kidds’ primary psychotherapist, providing therapy to individuals and families, both inhouse and within the community. Dr. Spirito is passionate about children and this passion comes across in all aspects of her work and personal life. Outside of her work at Supporting Kidds, Dr. Spirito is deeply devoted to her family, her yoga practice, and her cat Pumpkin.

Fall 2012 | | 15

Fundraising Events Party on the Patio The 2012 event was held at the beautiful Vicmead Hunt Club in Greenville, with Delaware’s First Lady Mrs. Carla J. Markell as the Honorary Chair. It featured delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks, live entertainment, and a wide selection of unique auction items, including beach vacations, sports and concert tickets, massages, autographed sports memorabilia, golf outings, and even a side of grass-fed beef. We hope you can join us next year! Join our mailing list, at, to get information about our upcoming events.

Mustaches for Kidds

Mustaches for Kidds is a 5-week mustache growing contest held each Fall. Donations are made to encourage the “growers”. Prizes are given for the sweetest ‘stache and the grower who raises the most money. Weekly checkpoints are at a local bar. This is the most unusual and fun fundraiser around. See for photos, dates, and locations. New this year, Purple Locks for Kidds gives the ladies a way to participate during Mustache Growing Season. Women can register and receive a purple hair extension to wear during this 5-week fundraising event.

Crazy Catwalk for Kidds

This is a high-energy hair and fashion show held in March in Hockessin, Delaware. It is the brain child of J Christian, owner of J Christian Studio in Hockessin. Local models, ages 4-70 strut the runways (catwalks) wearing fashions from local boutiques and hair styled by J Christian Studio. Visit Crazy Catwalks’ Facebook page for photos from last year.

Fundraising events like these provide much needed funds to Supporting Kidds. All of our services to families are provided on a sliding-scale basis, so in the midst of their grief, families to do not have to worry about paying for therapy or support. 16 | | Fall 2012

Fall 2012 | | 17

Children’s Grief Words of Wisdom for a Concerned Caregiver

In late May of 2012, a nationally-syndicated newspaper advice columnist responded to an inquiry from the mother of an 11-yearold boy who is grieving the sudden and unexpected death of his father. The concerns this mother expressed in her letter are extremely common. Her request for advice speaks to the great need for accurate information to be readily available for grieving individuals and to the greater community that supports those who are grieving. Unfortunately, the “advice� the columnist offered to this grieving mother, and to all individuals who read his column, was misinformed and quite contrary to the research-informed models we use at Supporting Kidds. This columnist advised the mother to limit the amount of time her son is allowed to talk about his deceased father to twice daily and that these conversations should be limited to topics that have not been discussed in the past. Supporting Kidds believes his advice is counterproductive and potentially dangerous and would like to offer alternate guidance to this mother and their community. 18 | | Fall 2012


My husband was killed nearly a year ago, and my 11-year-old son is still having a difficult time with it. Before the accident, he was always cheerful and social and hardly ever complained. That still describes him most of the time, but every now and again he slips into moods where he is just the opposite. These episodes occur once every couple of weeks and last for a couple of days, on average. I took him to see a therapist a while back, but I saw no change after three months of weekly sessions, so I took him out. When these moods happen, we talk about how special his dad was and how much he misses him, but I don’t think I’m making any headway. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


The death of a parent at any point in a child’s life is a challenging experience to endure; especially when the death is sudden, unexpected, and clearly premature. While your son’s grief is surely immeasurable, providing him with appropriate support and information will help ensure his ability to cope and endure this challenge. At Supporting Kidds, we believe the best place to start when working with childhood grief is in recognizing what we can expect from a grieving child, given his or her developmental stage. During the late elementary/early middle school years, a child is beginning to shift from a place of concrete thinking, to a more abstract understanding of death. Children at this developmental stage are beginning to recognize the universality and inevitability of death—everything that is alive will eventually die. This shift toward abstract thinking and reasoning is gradual. Children at this developmental stage are working to make sense of death; they develop stories and theories about how and why people die and what happens to the body and spirit after death. This is a natural and expected component of the 9-12 year old child’s understanding of death. Children in the late-elementary/early middle-school years often oscillate in their moods and their reactions to a loss. It is not uncommon for children of this developmental stage to experience heightened anxiety and fearfulness about personal safety and the safety of those around them. At the same time, these children may make efforts to cover up their fear or anxiety by striving to appear “normal.” What this may look like externally is a child alternating from joking around and acting as though nothing has happened to suddenly withdrawing from social interactions or becoming unusually clingy around caregivers. Both research and anecdotal evidence tell us that children cope best when they are given honest and accurate information about death and when they have opportunities to ask questions and to share their reactions and concerns. Children rely on their surviving caregivers to model appropriate means for sharing of questions, thoughts, and feelings. This helps the child to understand that these reactions are normal and safe. Children at this stage need repeated opportunity to talk, as well as opportunity for private reflection. As the child works to make sense of the loss, he or she will need numerous chances to talk through and process

different reactions and questions he or she may experience. We can try to wish our grief or a child’s grief away, but we take serious risks in the process. By encouraging a grieving child to limit the amount of time he/she is allowed to talk about his/her grief, we risk that grieving child missing out on the opportunity to learn valuable information about the self. Grief helps each child recognize his/her unique capacity to heal in the face of pain and loss. By placing limits on a child’s expressions of grief, we diminish a child’s chance to learn and hone various skills needed to manage not only this loss, but also future challenges that will inevitably occur throughout the lifespan. Most importantly, by encouraging a child to disavow grief, we place that child at serious risk for encountering a myriad of trials in the future. These challenges include, but are not limited to, increased risk for development of depression and other mental illness, heightened risk of drug and alcohol abuse, impaired academic performance, and reduced/ impaired ability for coping with interpersonal stressors. Grief is an ongoing, multidimensional, wave-like process. Grief does not occur in a step-wise fashion and it does not have a finite end-point. As children grow, they will encounter new experiences and obstacles, which will evoke new grief reactions to be processed, and ultimately, serve as opportunities for growth. Your son will benefit as you model tolerance and patience with him as he continues on in his journey through grief. By reassuring your son of your interest in his feelings and your commitment to keeping the memory of his father alive, you will assure your son that he is allowed and able to continue his emotional bond with his father, as he continues to grow and strive toward the future. At times, a child may experience grief-related challenges that may be best addressed by a professional, such as a psychologist or social worker. Here are some guidelines that can indicate when such help should be sought: • child is excessively clingy or shows extreme signs of anxiety • child threatens to hurt him or herself or others • child is engaging in high-risk behavior such as truancy, alcohol and other drug use • child demonstrates marked and prolonged changes in mood, sleeping habits, or social and academic functioning If your son begins to demonstrate any of these challenges, it will be important to seek the advice of a professional. Finally, please note that you and your son do not need to grieve alone. There are numerous resources available to help families cope with the death of a parent, including books, websites, support groups, and bereavement centers. Please visit the following websites to learn more about childhood grief and how to best support your son at this challenging time: • • •

children cope best when they are given honest and accurate information about death

Fall 2012 | | 19


1213 Old Lancaster Pike Hockessin, DE 19707 302-235-5544

Supporting Kidds - Fall 2012  

Children look to adults for cues for dealing with new circumstances following a death. Yet parents and guardians often are overwhelmed or un...

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