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when you think about death, dying and grief, what do those words trigger for you? Are you able to set your feelings and emotions aside when you need to, is this something you are actively working on, or have you yet had experience separating yourself from grief in a professional role? Any answer is the right answer….part of the experience of this class is to figure out where we are with our comfort levels and our abilities to separate ourselves from our work. Be honest, and don’t be afraid to explore whatever thoughts come to mind when you think about working with children experiencing grief!
My name is Chelsea Conover. I am from New Jersey and looking to pursue a career as a Child Life Specialist. I have always had a love for children and knew I wanted to work with them. I received my bachelors in psychology in 2016. I then when onto a master’s program in clinical mental health counseling. I aspired to become a child and adolescent counselor. Unfortunately, that was not completely for me. While I was in my masters program, I also worked as a pre-school teacher. I absolutely loved it. I learned a lot of great skills to meet children’s social, emotional, and cognitive needs. It also assured my love for working with children. While I knew I wanted to work with children, I was still unsure of what path I wanted to take. After extensive research, I learned about the Child Life position. It felt ‘right’ for me. Learning about it got me excited. In the beginning of August I began volunteering at Cooper University Hospital in the Child Life unit. I absolutely love it and cannot wait to continue this journey!
When I think about death, I think of the words shock, numbness, confusion, and sadness. These words are specific to me because that is what I felt when I lost my best friend. Just under two years ago, my best friend since childhood was struck by a driver who ran a red light while she was crossing the cross walk. It was abrupt and tragic. My mind could not completely comprehend it for a while. When the sadness started kicking in I began to run (as I was a collegiate runner) and it really helped me cope. I ran a half marathon in her favorite city (Philly) for her. I still visit her mom and we talk about her. I also do a ‘the donor dash’ every year with her other close friends and family. Keeping her name/memory a live has really helped me cope and I do not feel in will affect me professionally. As a child life specialist I must keep in mind the way I coped and responded to my personal loss may be way different from the way a patient and their family may deal and respond to death. People respond to loss in different ways, and no two people grieve in the same way (Grief and Bereavement Education and Support, n.d).
The only thing that may be difficult for me is working with the parents who lost/ or have a terminally ill child. Losing a child is frequently called the ultimate tragedy. I have personally witnessed the awful pain and despair parents go through when losing a child after seeing my best friend’s parents go through it. However, I am excited to learn skills that can help me help families better cope with their child’s death. Additionally, I am excited to develop skills on how to respond to families who have different views and religious backgrounds. My best friend’s parents have agnostic views, as I come from a Christian background. I always have to remain mindful and considerate of their views and not push my own onto them. At times it is difficult as I find peace in believing she is in happy and in heaven and they believe she is just gone. As I respect their views, I sometimes find it difficult in what to say and provide comfort. However, I found talking about fun memories we had with her is what helps them cope best.
Grief and Bereavement Education and Support. (n.d). Retrieved October, 2018, from https://www.choc.org/programs-services/child-life/grief-bereavement-education-support/
I’m Courtney, and I’m from Denver, CO. My road to Child Life has kind of been a weird one. I graduated from Colorado State University with a B.A. in Journalism and a B.A. in Spanish. I moved to Spain right after graduating to teach English at an elementary school in Barcelona – the most incredible experience in my lifetime thus far. After I moved back, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life (we’ve all been there, right?). I was working for the Make A Wish Foundation and had a blast. I then switched gears and got a job at Children’s Hospital Colorado working as a Patient Advocate, which leads me to today. I work with families/patients who have issues or concerns with the way treatment is going or has gone. I’m also the Assistant Director of a summer camp for kids that have cancer. I started this program around the same time I started working at the hospital. It didn’t take me long to figure out I want to work with and around children for the rest of my life. It’s been tricky figuring out in what way, though.
Working in Child Life, I hope to comfort and lift the spirits of children as they’ve done for me so many times. Kids can teach us more about life than any adult if you ask me. I hope to provide efficient and meaningful family-centered care that opens up families’ minds to the healthcare setting and how to navigate it. A medical setting is nerve-wracking for almost anyone, let alone a child or the mother/father of that child. I’m excited to gain expertise in siblings and how another child’s illness can permanently affect the life of their family members.
My current job and working in the summer camp have enhanced my skill to separate grief from my professional work. I’ve worked with a lot of families who have lost or are expecting to lose a child. I’ve learned to set emotions aside and comfort them to my strongest professional ability – it’s times like these when families need every person around them to be on their A game. That isn’t to say I don’t bring work home with me, though. I’m confident in my ability to handle grief and emotion appropriately while in the situation, but it does affect me when I get home sometimes. I think that makes me human! I am proud of my connection to my work, but I’m excited for this class to teach me about how others process grief, how grief rolls through support systems, and how I can help facilitate that grief in any way as a CCLS.