For many of us, our grandparents are our heroes. While some of us are fortunate to enjoy relationships with grandparents well into adulthood, sometimes we lose our loved ones when we are children. Experiencing the death of a loved one for the first time can be confusing and scary and everyone grieves differently.
To help, Country Meadows collaborated with Alicia Cesare, Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital in Hershey, to offer advice on helping children cope with grief.
Cesare, also a graduate student at Missouri State University, has spent the past few years of her life learning to become a support person for children experiencing high-level, emotional life changes such as grief. She believes that it is vital to be able to provide resources for children dealing with challenges like this so they can develop good coping skills.
“In a moment of loss, people are unable to process information like they typically would,” Cesare says. “Children are little beings with such big emotions that they may not know what to do with in times of grief. Being able to provide a tangible resource encourages parents to help children be more productive with coping and benefits their future coping skills as they grow into adulthood.”
While in her undergraduate studies at Penn State University, Cesare started out in pre-medicine but longed for more creativity. Later on in her studies, she took a class in Human Development and attended an in-class lecture by two CCLSs. It was then where she had her “light bulb moment,” saying, “It was then that I knew that this was the field I was meant to be in, to make a difference.”
With a specific interest in health care as well as a love for working with children, Cesare found her calling: “Kids are so resilient, and it’s incredibly amazing to see! I find it to be such a privilege to bring joy to people when they’re in a state of shock, confusion and distress due to a situation they didn’t choose to be in,” she says.
While Cesare continues her education through Missouri State University, she is required to share her knowledge with an organization in her community. She reached out to Country Meadows and created two resources for children dealing with grief. The resources can be found in the Tips Library on the Country Meadows website and include a tip sheet on Ages and Stages of Grief as well as recommended Children’s books about coping with grief.
Cesare says, “Working with Country Meadows was such a warm and welcoming experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better organization with which to work!”
Moving forward, Cesare wishes to continue to create an impact in children’s lives as well as other educators. “I have a passion for investing in the future generations, so I would love to have the opportunity to have a role in academics and teach future CCLSs as well.”
One of Cesare’s favorite things about being a CCLS is the impact that you have on each child and the creativity that comes along with her role.
“My favorite part of my job is to witness when the coping skills I am able to teach children every day in the moments I am with them are invaluable skills that they will carry on through the rest of their lives,” she says. “We do not just teach children to avoid unpleasant feelings through distraction, but to be present and make their own decisions in identifying what they need emotionally. The best part of it is, we often get to make it fun and look like child’s play!”