Day-long camp walks children through mourning process

Grieving children and their families can now benefit from a new partnership between Tomorrow’s Rainbow and TrustBridge Health Bereavement Centers.

The two nonprofit agencies – one offering on-going programs for grief-stricken children at a Coconut Creek farm, the other a complete health care organization with hospice services – have joined forces and will debut Club Seahorse, a day-long camp for elementary-aged children on Friday, Oct. 23, which is a teacher’s workday off from school.

Tomorrow’s Rainbow is a two-and-a-half acre farm for children who have experienced the death of a loved one. By incorporating miniature-horse interactions with therapeutic play and facilitated peer support, children learn the tools to grieve in meaningful ways. And TrustBridge Health Bereavement Centers are known for helping traumatized children through The Sea Star Program, which includes Club Seahorse.

“By partnering, we enhance what’s offered to the community, and we’re able to do it so much better,” Mosher said.

“The community saw Tomorrow’s Rainbow as the place for grieving children and families, and we couldn’t keep up with the demand,” Mosher said.

“TrustBridge also provides grief camps for children, but not on an ongoing basis. But they are a hospice center, so by partnering we can utilize our strengths and be the place where families come to grieve.”

Mosher founded Tomorrow’s Rainbow after a car accident left her without her husband, Paul, and their son, Dustin, without a father. The farm includes one thoroughbred horse, 11 miniature ponies and donkeys, two goats, three sheep and a pig.

Mosher said the farm is an ideal location, because children heal best in an organic setting. It provides two things most essential to grieving children: knowing their caregiver is doing well, and structure and routine. So Tomorrow’s Rainbow provides programs for caregivers and encourages children to perform farm chores before they play.

“The horse is the only animal that has a natural ability to mirror human behavior,” said Mosher, who is certified with the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association, as well as trained by The Dougy Center, the first center in the United States to provide peer support for children.

“When the children are working with the horses, they can see what they are giving off to the world and make adjustments if they don’t like what they see,” she said.

“The horse is the mirror for that child.”

Chelsea Johnson, Bereavement Manager at TrustBridge Health, agreed that traumatized children benefit from play therapies.

“When working with children, it is important to get into their world, particularly when they are grieving,” Johnson said.

“A child’s grief experience – the strong feelings, physical and behavioral changes – are really not that different from an adult’s, but children tend to be less in their heads and more in their hearts.”

Johnson said therapies such as art, music and movement can be more effective ways to express and cope with grief than talk therapy.

“Ask a grieving child to describe their anger with words, and they may be limited in their vocabulary,” she said.

“Give them a mallet and a drum and ask them what their anger sounds like, and the expression and release of that emotion becomes visceral and real.”

There is no charge to attend Club Seahorse; to reserve a space, call Marla Berger at 954-978-2390. For information about the Sea Star Program at TrustBridge Health, call 888-499-8393. For information about Tomorrow’s Rainbow, visit Tomorrows Rainbow.org.

Article source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/fl-sf-clubseahorse-1014-20151012-story.html

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