313 butterflies remind that Fond du Lac children experience grief, too, in this abnormal year
Posted on: Nov 6th, 2020
Daphne Lemke Fond du Lac Reporter
FOND DU LAC – Paper butterflies have taken flight at the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac to symbolize hope as the city nears the end of a tumultuous year.
November is National Children’s Grief Awareness month, and Agnesian HealthCare is teaming up with their Bereavement Center and the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac to inform children and the community on the importance of support during the grieving process.
In past years, this collaboration has led up to Super Saturday, an in-person event at the Children’s Museum where families could work on projects themed around grief awareness and get resources on the subject. Ordinarily, Super Saturday took place annually on the Saturday before Children’s Grief Awareness Day — the third Thursday in November — and children could dress as their favorite superheroes.
This year, however, the event has been adapted into “Healing Through Hope,” a month-long series of activities for children to have fun with as they learn about grief resources and the services of the Bereavement Center.
Every Monday, Lori Tschetter from the Bereavement Center will read a story on the Children’s Museum of Fond du Lac’s Facebook page. The month’s first story was “The Color Monster” by Anna Llenas.
The Children’s Museum has also extended its summer take-home activity kits into the rest of the year, with November’s kits centering around children’s grief awareness. Each week’s kit will offer a different activity, as well as grief resources from the Bereavement Center.
Kits are available for all children to pick up from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 to 10:30 a.m. Sundays at the museum, 75 W. Scott St., in Fond du Lac.
“(These kits) are especially beneficial to any kids that have experienced loss of a loved one, but also for all kids, because we’ve all lost something this year,” the museum’s Executive Director Andrea Welsch said.
She added that the kits will also support adults in helping children through loss.https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?app_id=&channel=https%3A%2F%2Fstaticxx.facebook.com%2Fconnect%2Fxd_arbiter.php%3Fversion%3D44%23cb%3D%26domain%3Dwww.fdlreporter.com%26origin%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.fdlreporter.com%26relation%3Dtop&href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fcmfdl%2Fvideos%2F639857630015449%2F&locale=en_US&sdk=joey
What may grief look like in children?
Just like in adults, grief can take many forms in children, and many will have individual needs when it comes to support.
Tschetter and Megyn Wirkus are both Bereavement Specialists in Spiritual Care at the Agnesian HealthCare Bereavement Center. Their services for children include one-on-one grief support for those who have lost a loved one, as well as support groups, which are currently held exclusively on Zoom.
They are also working with schools to offer support during the school day.
Sometimes age and level of development factor into how a child will express grief, Tschetter and Wirkus said.
For children between the age of 2 and 8, the loss of someone significant can result in behaviors like crying, changes in eating habits and sleep patterns, regressing, showing anxiety and clinging to other loved ones.
Those between 8 and 18 may show their grief through a difficulty concentrating, nightmares, withdrawal, and anxiety about the wellbeing of themselves and others.
On top of grieving, the pandemic is complicating matters for these children by limiting in-person contact with some of the people who could offer support.
“Families are dealing with changes to their daily lives, including disruptions to school, jobs and income to name a few,” Wirkus said. “The present concerns and the worry about the unknown add to what families are processing through when it came to their grief following the death of a loved one.”
The Bereavement Center acknowledges that a person’s grief is real and valid, and certainly not forgotten during this time. Their services to the Fond du Lac community are free for those who need support.
Outside of the center, adults can support children by offering emotional and – whenever possible – physical nurturance. Tschetter and Wirkus advise being honest about what happened instead of using euphemisms, such as “lost” or “passed away.”
Support can also take the form of being a model for expressing emotions in a healthy way, maintaining or reestablishing a consistent routine, providing choices whenever possible and seeking professional help if the need arises due to self-harm concerns or suicidal thoughts.
“This month provides an opportunity for our community to raise awareness of the painful impact that the death of a loved one has in the life of a child, and a time to make sure that these children receive the support they need,” Wirkus said.
Butterflies symbolize hope — look for them at the museum
In addition to the story time and activity kits, 313 butterflies are on display on the Children’s Museum windows.
While the butterfly shape symbolizes hope, the number of butterflies symbolizes the number of supportive visits that the Agnesian Bereavement Center provided to Fond du Lac-area children in 2019, Wirkus said.
When children come to the museum to pick up an activity kit, they also have the option to take a white butterfly home and color it in honor of a loved one who has died. The completed butterflies can be returned to replace the butterflies in the window, keeping the number at 313.
The butterflies and activities are available all month, but the peak of the month will be Children’s Grief Awareness Day, which falls on Nov. 19 this year. The Bereavement Center and the Children’s Museum is encouraging everyone to wear blue on this day, to show their support.
Collaboration for children is common for Fond du Lac
The Children’s Museum first created the take-home activity kits when schools shut down in March to combat “summer learning loss,” Welsch said.
To meet concerns of families and school counselors, these kits were executed in partnership with the Salvation Army of Fond du Lac, distributed in tandem with meals from the Brown Bag Lunch Program.
The museum no longer had guaranteed revenue due to its doors being shut, but the community and organizations rallied behind the effort, including Agnesian HealthCare, Fond du Lac Credit Union, Festival Foods, The Fond du Lac Area Foundation, the Fond du Lac School District, Casey and Joey French, the Fond du Lac Area United Way, Verve Credit Union and the Fond du Lac Area Women’s Fund.
Their support has buoyed the program for the rest of the year.
Looking ahead, the Bereavement Center will take a new look at its annual summer grief camp for children by collaborating with the Children’s Museum next year.
“The Children’s Museum has graciously welcomed the opportunity to be the host site for the Bereavement Center’s annual grief camp for children entering first grade through seventh grade in the fall 2021 school year,” Wirkus and Tschetter said.
For more information or resources on grief, Healing Through Hope and Children’s Grief Awareness Month, visit cmfdl.org.
Contact Daphne Lemke at 920-907-7968 or firstname.lastname@example.org.