Children's grief awareness day aims to bring hope to kids

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COLUMBIA - Teachers and students at a local school wore blue shirts with the phrase #BLUE4KIDS to celebrate children's grieving day Thursday. 

"Our children are the most disenfranchised population of grievers," said Dr. Tashel Bordere. 

Lee Expressive Arts Elementary school observed children's grief awareness day for the first time. The school is the first in Columbia to do so. 

The program is possible through a grief education program led by Bordere. 

She is a state specialist in youth development for the University of Missouri's College of Human Environmental Sciences Extension and an assistant professor of human development and family studies. 

"It's an important day for people to become aware of resources available to support our children," Bordere said. 

She said children can experience all types of loss. 

"Pet loss is one of the first significant experiences children have with death and loss that can go unrecognized," Bordere said. 

Divorce is another thing that can trigger grief in children. 

"Undoubtedly children are impacted by divorce, the different changes that are occurring and transitions," Bordere said. "Yet they fair better if adults get the care that they need through self care as well as provide support for their children." 

Bordere said the type of grief a child experiences can be influenced by where they live. 

"Children in urban areas are more likely to experience higher rates of violence coping with multiple traumatic losses in the absence of support," she said. "People just don't understand that they're impacted by these losses." 

Bordere said she believes having grief programs for children in schools will become a trend, because grief affects so many children and it can lead to other issues. 

"We know that when children are not supported in a school system, they have a higher absentee rate, more academic problems more easily distracted and their grief is often suffocated," Bordere said. 

One issue is that children are often punished for behavior that could be caused by grief. 

"If a child is more disruptive, for example, as an expression of grief or they're distracted, they get penalized," Bordere said. "And sometimes this results in them being put into special education classes." 

The school has been working with parents and teachers over the past few weeks to better educate them on how to deal with children who are grieving. 

To celebrate the day, Lee Expressive Elementary scheduled a blue balloon launch, grief support kit dedication ceremony and a New Orleans celebration of life send-off during an all-school assembly.