HARLINGEN — When someone significant in a child’s life dies, whether it’s a friend, sibling, parent or grandparent, grieving their loss may be difficult to process for children.
As a result of the trauma, some children and young adults may manifest certain behaviors that are not typical of the child such as behavior problems, depression or changes in their eating or sleeping habits.
Because of this, a nonprofit organization took action and began helping them through their difficult journey.
The Children’s Bereavement Center of the Rio Grande Valley (CBC-RGV) in Harlingen celebrated its three-year anniversary this month.
Since February 2017, the center has been fostering healing for hundreds of grieving children, young adults and their families for free.
“It’s amazing what’s happened,” said Randy Baker, Rio Grande Valley Regional Director for the Children’s Bereavement Center RGV. “We have grown in just three years.”
According to Baker, in 2017 the center provided services to 248 unduplicated clients, which means they are clients that may have visited the center a number of times but are only counted once.
In 2018, the center serviced an additional 308 unduplicated clients.
“Then in 2019, we really went big. It was 427,” Baker said.
According to Baker, the center had a 67 percent increase in counseling in the last year and a 39 percent increase in unduplicated clients.
“I say it’s good and bad,” Baker said. “It’s good that we are here to serve those needs for children and young adults that are suffering from the loss of a sibling, parent or significant other, but what’s sad is that there is that big of a need out there for kids and young adults that are grieving.”
The center offers free services to Rio Grande Valley children and young adults ages 3 to 24.
Baker said the nonprofit relies on grants, community donations and events to raise money to be able to offer services.
“At this point, we just feel like we’ve scratched the surface because most of our clients so far come from Cameron County, but we have a few from Hidalgo County,” Baker said. “Once we get into that area there in the upper Valley, we just have no idea what the need is going to be as the word continues to get out.”
Helping those in need
According to CBC-RGV senior counselor Cindy Perez Waddle, the center offers a variety of services that are specialized for grief counseling.
“We meet families’ needs by offering a variety of services, which include individual counseling, family counseling, peer support groups and grief camps,” she said.
Waddel said some of the feedback personnel have received from children is that they say they found a safe place where they feel like they can talk about the death of their loved ones.
“Many times families express to us that talking about their loss or talking about death is sometimes an uncomfortable topic among others who sometimes don’t know how to handle those grief feelings for them,” she explained. “So this is a place where they feel safe to do that.”
Waddel said she has been involved with the center since before it opened and she said it is exciting to see its growth.
“The acceptance that we’ve received from the community is quite marvelous,” she said.
Waddel said the center has reached a point where former families are referring new families to the center to receive help.
“To hear new families come in and say you were highly recommended and to see it be so well received not only from the families we service, but also our community partners is really quite an honor,” she said. “I think we’re all in agreement that this is a service that was much needed in our community.”
WHAT — Children’s Bereavement Center of the Rio Grande Valley
WHERE — 2302 South 77 Sunshine Strip, Harlingen
PHONE — (956) 368-4065
WEBSITE — www.cbc-rgv.org
SERVICES — Individual and family counseling sessions, peer support groups, grief camps and crisis intervention
DID YOU KNOW?
The Children’s Bereavement Center of the Rio Grande Valley is a nonprofit organization that works with children and young adults ages three to 24.
There’s no charge for services, nor is insurance needed.
Registration is open for the center’s next teen grief camp, which will be held during Spring Break on March 16 and 17.