The oldest pediatric hospice in the nation is Edmarc Hospice for Children in Norfolk, Virginia. Founded in 1977, Edmarc serves more than 100 children who have life-threatening illnesses each year.
Prior to the establishment of Peace by Piece, a bimonthly support group for grieving children ages 3 to 18, Edmarc had been offering a support group for bereaved siblings twice a year. However, following the death of the son of an Edmarc Bereavement Coordinator, they realized how many more children have no safe place to go to express their feelings and fears openly.
Many children are thrust into the grieving process. At a time when they are most vulnerable, these kids experience isolation. Friends and schoolmates tend to become impatient with demonstrations of acute grief after a few weeks or months. Often, even relatives don’t know how to help. To meet this ongoing need in their area, Peace by Piece was established, to offer grieving children and teens a caring, safe environment to share.
Peer support is a very important component of Peace by Piece. That’s why groups are set up by age. These groups always meet in the same location at the same time to give kids a sense of familiarity, comfort and stability. Twice a month they come together to participate in activities, play, talk or just be with kids their age who know what they are going through. Times like these ease their sense of isolation and help the slow but sure process of healing begin. Support groups are free for however long they are needed.
Peace by Piece support groups are facilitated by gifted and extremely dedicated volunteers. These volunteers are carefully chosen. They participate in a rigorous training program and screening process. Upon completion of training, each facilitator agrees to a minimum one-year commitment. That’s two evenings per month at four hours per evening on site. This does not include the volunteer’s planning time.
Peace by Piece Facilitators brings diverse levels of experiences and backgrounds to the program. The service they provide is described as invaluable. Combined with their compassion, patience and keen ability to listen, facilitators create an emotional safe haven. Through their hard work, many children have transformed. Their anger has subsided. The need to act out has diminished. They can now share their thoughts and feelings.
Peace by Piece is 95% volunteer driven. Without the dedication of the facilitators, this program would not be available. The success of this program is largely based on the quality of the current volunteers and the standards they have set. It is clearly evident that their commitment to program participants has created the right environment for kids to make it through their grief as well as opened the door to additional referrals.
Peace by Piece is now celebrating its one-year anniversary. Within this time, volunteer facilitators have donated more than 1,200 hours. When reflecting over the past year, many of them have shared the immense respect they have for the children, teens and adults who expose their most intimate thoughts and how they feel privileged to be a part of their grief process.