IDAHO FALLS — It’s been a painful year and a half for Anna Long and her two children.
The young mother, her 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter recently moved into an Idaho Falls neighborhood after her husband, Sam, took his life in February 2015 at the age of 39.
“My kids and I were in living in Boise at the time and after he died, we started attending a group for grieving kids,” Long tells EastIdahoNews.com. “It really helped my kids be able to begin to process what had happened to us.”
A few months after Sam’s death, Long decided to relocate to east Idaho to be closer to family.
She began searching for bereavement groups her young children could attend and was surprised to learn there aren’t any in Idaho Falls.
“There are so many kids in this community who could really benefit from a group,” Long says. “Children need to know there are other people out there that are feeling the same things as they are.”
Long made the decision to organize a group for grieving children called Heartstone. She wants to use the same curriculum as her Boise group and licensed counselors to work with the kids and their surviving parents or guardians.
“I went to Hospice of Eastern Idaho with the idea and the curriculum in hand,” Long recalls. “They said they have wanted to do this and just needed someone to light a fire. Turns out that’s me.”
Hospice of Eastern Idaho is a non-profit organization that relies on donations and funding from several sources including the United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County.
“We’ve really been hoping to have something like a bereavement group for children for a long time,” Celeste Eld, the executive director of Hospice of Eastern Idaho, tells EastIdahoNews.com. “The challenge is coming up with the funding to pay for it.”
The plan is for Heartstone group members to meet twice a month in the evenings. The children will go into one room and work on art projects, crafts and other activities with their counselors.
At the same time, parents, adults or guardians gather in another room with a professional counselor.
“Not only is there a lot of emotional support, but we talk about advice on how to help each other and help out our kids,” Long says.
Long is determined to start the bereavement group in September and hopes to get enough funding to ensure Heartstone is long term.
“I’ve learned that kids aren’t necessarily resilent. They are adaptable. Kids will adapt to their environment and I think a bereavement group like this helps them process what they need to process,” Long says.
Long believes there’s a need for this service in Idaho Falls. She is confident suffering families and children are desperate for help that can be achieved through Heartstone.
“To those parents and kids that are grieving, I would say all you have to do it show up,” Long says. “You just have to come the first time and we’ll pull you close and make it work because it’s going to be beneficial for everyone.
To make a tax deductible donation to Heartstone, send a check to Hospice of Eastern Idaho at 1810 Moran St. Idaho Falls, ID 83401 or click here for more information.
Hospice of Eastern Idaho is just one organization The United Way of Idaho Falls and Bonneville County supports. Click here to learn how you can donate and help those in our community.