The loss of a parent, sibling or caregiver is a devastating experience for a child. Who can they talk to? Who will really listen? Their friends may shy away because they don’t know what to say. It’s also hard to talk to the surviving parent or family member because they are grieving as well.
The Safe Harbor program provides ongoing grief support groups for children, teens and their parents or caregivers. This is a caring environment where they can come for support and understanding.
At Safe Harbor, we believe that it is a natural process to grieve after a loss. The duration and intensity of grief is unique for each individual. Support, caring and acceptance from other individuals provides people with a natural capacity to heal.
Safe Harbor provides support groups for children, teens, young adults and parents/caregivers that have experienced the death of a loved one. All groups are held at the Abington Health- Schilling, 4th floor of the Pennwood Building. Groups are led by trained, experienced facilitators in a caring and supportive atmosphere.
A Program for Grieving Children, Teens and Families
This grief support group is for children, teens and families who have lost a loved one through death. Children ages four to 18 are assigned to age appropriate groups. A young adult group (ages 19 to 30) is also available. Parents and guardians are provided with necessary tools to understand and assist their grieving children.
Healing After a Suicide
This grief support group is for children, teens and families who have lost a loved one due to suicide. Children ages four through 18 are assigned to age appropriate groups. Parents are provided with support, as well as the necessary tools to understand and assist their grieving children. Please call for dates, times and to register. This group is offered as needed, based upon demand from the community.
Young Adult Grief Support Group
This group will meet the needs of young adults ages 19 to 30 who are grieving the death of a loved one.
Opportunities to Help
Safe Harbor needs your help to sustain and expand our program. Our program is reliant on contributions from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations. Please contact the Office of Philanthropy at 215-481-4438 or Safe Harbor at 215-481-5983 for more information about donations or gifts-in-kind.
Safe Harbor is a warm and comfortable environment that enables the staff to support grieving children, teens and their families. Our spacious facility offers a large art room, filled with materials that encourage participants to express their emotions and creativity.
The four support group rooms are filled with over-sized pillows and stuffed animals and offer an inviting environment where children and teens can relax during group activities and sharing sessions.
The Volcano Room, with its cushioned walls, floors and punching bags, creates a place where children can express their anger, frustration, rage or sadness within a protected setting.
Our Parents’/Caregivers’ Room is a quiet place that offers grieving parents and caregivers a place to meet and share with others undergoing similar experiences with loss.
Our large playroom fosters healing for the youngest children as they engage in role play and free play and bond with new friends. The room has areas for dress-up, puppet theatre and art.
We also have a butterfly garden where groups sometimes meet for memorial candle lightings or to paint special messages on garden stones. This garden is lovingly maintained by our volunteers.
“I remember the volcano room. I was able to get out my anger. We would throw pillows. It felt good to do that.” – Former participant
“Oh wow, I never thought it would look like this. Cool. I thought it would just be a classroom” – 7-year old during orientation
Expressive Arts for Healing
Our volunteers and music therapist provide a variety of creative activities to support the expression of feelings of grief.
At Safe Harbor, our music therapist uses the power of music to enhance the healing process. Children and adult groups share sadness, anger, pride and laughter through various musical activities. Making music often helps group members gain respect and peer validation by sharing the deep emotions that have been brought alive through music.
Drumming, improvisation, song writing and recording are just some of the rewarding music therapy activities. The safe environment created in this program opens the musical hearts of all our families.
“Thank you for showing the group that where words fail, music speaks.”– Facilitator
“Thanks for helping me create. This was cool.”– Participant
In addition to the various support groups offered at Safe Harbor, participants also have the opportunity to participate in pet therapy. Pets can be soothing and help children through the healing process, particularly those who are shy. By allowing children to sit quietly and pet the dogs, they can reflect and discuss their feelings. Our dogs can also be a lot of fun as they show off their tricks to the children.
Drama and Movement
We strive to provide many creative outlets for children and teens to express their feelings. Drama is a safe way for participants to discuss memories, feelings and hopes for the future through play. It is sometimes helpful for a child to be able to put his or her feelings into a skit, puppet or even video.
Children, teens, and sometimes even their parents/caregivers, enjoy visiting our art room. We often do projects to help children memorialize their loved one or to help let go of difficult memories and feelings. Children are encouraged to express through hands-on creativity.
Trained bereavement volunteer facilitators are the heart of our program. Many of our volunteers have advanced degrees in social services, nursing, education or psychology. However, many of our volunteers are individuals who experienced a loss when they were young and wish to offer support to those in a similar situation.
Our staff and volunteers work closely with children, teens and their parents/caregivers to create a supportive environment where sharing feelings and concerns help participants move through the healing process. Training sessions are offered every August and are required for new volunteers to attain the skills, knowledge and techniques necessary to work with the groups. Ongoing skill building workshops and self-care gatherings are offered throughout the year. A one-year commitment is required for all volunteers.
“Being able to work with pre-teens, who are trying to figure out life while navigating the messy waters of death, is not only rewarding, but also important to my own grieving process. While saddened that they have to deal with such circumstances, I am glad that I can be there to listen and to help them process their emotions.”
“I find that through the process of helping others, I help myself. I feel that I can relate better to the parents and children if they know I have walked in their shoes.”