The Bob & Merle Scolnik Healing Center of Harbor Hospice in Muskegon, Michigan hosts a Kids’ Holiday Open House each December for children who are grieving the death of a loved one after hospice care or any death.
This free event is open to children of any age in the West Michigan lakeshore communities. Activities include creating a memory ornament, viewing the children’s video “What on Earth Do We Do When Someone Dies?” and enjoying holiday snacks and music.
The open house is also an opportunity for children and their accompanying adults to meet the grief counselors from the Scolnik Healing Center and to connect with other children and families who are grieving.
Laura Ecker, MA, LPC, Harbor Hospice Grief Counselor started the annual open house five years ago as a way for children to include their missing loved ones in the holiday season, something she believes is important for healthy grieving for adults and children.
“Many times, parents and other adults fear that talking about the deceased person will upset children during what is supposed to be a happy time,” states Ecker. “But the truth is children can become confused and hurt when no one mentions their loved one, modeling to them that grief is best handled with avoidance and denial. Hands-on activities such as creating a memory ornament can be a great way to express feelings. The adults usually jump in and participate as well, and when people’s hands are busy, they tend to open up and talk. I often hear great holiday memories of loved ones shared around the ornament table. There are tears and laughter, and we affirm that both are healthy and okay.”
The Scolnik Healing Center offers grief support services for children and adults to anyone in the West Michigan area free of charge. Services include individual grief counseling, ongoing grief support groups, and a number of annual community events such as the Kids’ Holiday Open House and Grief & the Holidays for adults.