Christine Phillips, Executive Director of Friends of Aine, Center for Grieving Children and Families presented at this month’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Collaborative meeting. Friends Of Aine provides bereavement support services and resources to children, teens, and families who have experienced a significant death. It is the only organization in New Hampshire dedicated to children’s bereavement.
Christine and her husband David started Friends of Aine in 2013. Aine was Christine’s daughter who passed away in 2010 at 8 years old. Aine’s death was unexpected and there were very few grief resources available to the family. Christine said that “we decided we needed to do something in Aine’s memory.” Bella, Aine’s sister, was instrumental in influencing her family to start an organization to support grieving children. They started fundraising in 2018 and began providing bereavement services to children and their families. Peer support groups began in 2018 with the goal of working in kindness, compassion, connections, in memory of Aine.
Childhood bereavement is a public health issue. One out of thirteen New Hampshire children will experience the loss of a parent or sibling before the age of 18. This does not include the loss of other caregivers such as a grandparent, foster parent, etc. Additionally, this data does not reflect COVID-19 deaths which have increased these numbers.
When children are unsupported after losing a caregiver, they may develop serious long-term effects such as emotional and behavioral problems such as anxiety, depression, substance misuse, and criminal behavior.
It is crucial to provide children and teens with the opportunity to grieve some ways Friends of Aine does that is to:
- Answer questions honestly
- Let them know you are there for them
- Use age-appropriate and clear language
- Validate and acknowledge their feelings
- Maintain routines and schedules
- Respect different grieving styles
- Listen without judgement
- Give them a break; support caregivers
- Allow them to maintain connection to their loved one.
Friends of Aine offers grieving children evidence-based Peer-to-Peer Support groups. These groups run throughout the academic year with special events occurring over the summer. The groups are divided by age and are activity-based. They are led by trained volunteer facilitators. There is a maximum of six to eight children per group with two facilitators that are trained. Friends of Aine does not offer clinical services or therapy but their services are all evidence-based. The best aspect of the groups is peer support, children can support each other in the group setting and help each other through their respective grief.
Friends of Aine is currently serving more than 40 families but their need is so great that they plan to expand their services in April. The center is located at 226 Coolidge Ave. In Manchester and all services are FREE to grieving families. 1/3 of the children are in a program because of substance use disorder or suicide. Additionally, child suicide is becoming something many siblings are needing support for.
Friends of Aine has many upcoming events if you would like to support the organization. Their next big event is their 6th Annual Gala which you can register for here. Check out the flyer below for details.
We are grateful to Friend of Aine for presenting at the SUD Collaborative and for the incredible work they do for grieving children.