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Good Shepherd Hospice provides comfort to Hispanic children and caregivers

Bereavement is a distressing life event, especially for children. The trauma of a sudden loss can result in copious negative health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and less obvious outcomes such as poorer school attendance and achievement and reduced career engagement.

In 2017, Good Shepherd Hospice, a member of Catholic Health Services of Long Island, was awarded a grant from the New York Life Foundation enabling bereavement services to one of its most marginalized patient populations: grieving Hispanic children and their caretakers. In addition to the typical challenges of bereavement counseling, these families are often struggling with other types of trauma that complicate grief, including undocumented citizenship, economic insecurity, homelessness, deportation, discrimination, gang activity, neglect, sexual abuse and substance/alcohol abuse.

The program, which is trauma informed, operates group sessions on an eight-week cycle. The goals of the children’s program are to decrease their sense of isolation, normalize experiences and feelings and assist in the development of proactive coping strategies. The adult group focuses on education and support, including understanding how children grieve based on the child’s developmental level, age, risk and protective factors. Sessions are facilitated by bilingual, culturally competent bereavement specialists.

A total of 49 educational programs were conducted by bereavement specialists for community entities that interface with grieving children. Good Shepherd Hospice also partnered with Bob Sweeney’s Camp Hope to create a culturally sensitive and inclusive environment for this highly vulnerable population, including a two-day bereavement camp for children and their caregivers and an annual children’s Christmas party.

For more information, contact Maribeth McKeever, LCSW-R, ACHP-SW, director, bereavement, at (631) 828-7628 or maribeth.mckeever@chsli.org.