Health Check Kids: Helping grieving children

(Submitted photo)

Friend’s Way is making a difference for grieving children and their families.

"We met when I was 18, pretty much out of high school," Carlene Basten, of Warwick, said of her husband, Michael.

That was in 2005.

Three years later, Brook, who is now 11, was born.

"We did lots together,” said Brook. “We went apple picking together. We made meatballs together."

But things started to change, especially by November 14, 2016.

"He was home and he was intoxicated,” said Carlene. “He had been drinking all day."

Things quickly escalated.

"So, I confronted him about it and he got upset and said that he was going to leave the house. And that's the way he decided to leave was to shoot himself," Brook said.

Days later, Carlene and her daughter met Ryan Loiselle, who is the program director at Rhode Island's only family bereavement center.

"And Carlene came in and said, ‘Hey, I've heard about Friends Way. My daughter and I need your help,’" said Loiselle.

It was at Friend’s Way that mother and daughter felt they had an outlet.

"It just made me feel more safe, in a way, because I wasn't the only one,” said Brook.

They met every other week, with children in one area and adults in another.

"I've learned to be able to talk about it in a safe environment and not keep it all in,” said Carlene.

Brook shared similar sentiments.

"My favorite part about coming here is doing crafts that is about my feelings and stuff and talking about it to the volunteers," said Brook.

"Every day is a day that kids are affected by grief, but even more so around the holidays,” said Loiselle.

"Giving yourself permission to take time for yourself, to acknowledge that the person has died, to keep some traditions, to build some new rituals.”

Friends Way is all about support -- and it’s free. It reminds all of us this holiday season to offer support to those in emotional pain, including children. You may not know what to say, but you can listen and let them know you're there for them.

"I have a new happy,” said Brook. “Like, I spend time with my family and my friends and I just try not to think about it that much."

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