Removing the stigma of their loss

Nikki Gregory (center) and her three daughters meet at Kids Hurt Too Hawaii.
Nikki Gregory (center) and her three daughters meet at Kids Hurt Too Hawaii.

HONOLULU — For Nikki Gregory, the hard truth was that staying with the father of her three daughters was not going to make their relationship any better.

The 34-year-old single mother admitted that it took her a long time, but she finally did realize that prison was his life.

She just needed help getting across to her girls – Champagne, age 10, Chardonnay, age 13, and Alize, age 15 – that it was not their fault their father has been in and out of prison his whole life.

“I wanted them to know that there are other kids like them,” Gregory said. “They’re not alone. That it was unfortunate we’re in the situation that we are in, but it’s not their fault. And it’s OK that their parents are not together. Kids Hurt Too Hawaii helped them become more open about their situation. They are not ashamed to say that their father is in prison.”

Gregory’s three daughters are among the more than 250 grief-stricken children, between ages 3 and 19, that every year in Hawaii turn to Kids Hurt Too Hawaii for a safe space to express feelings about their loss of a parent to such factors as incarceration, death or divorce.

Seeing her children smile again

Nicole Puente
Nicole Puente spends quality time with her son, Andre (left) and daughter, Audriana.
HONOLULU – Nicole Puente is the first to admit that her divorce six years ago from her children’s father wasn’t easy on them.

It pains them still.

But the 35-year-old patient-care representative for a local hospital insists that staying in an abusive relationship for the sake of her two children — Audriana,13, and Andre, 11 — was not an option.

“I needed as much help as possible for all of us to understand that the divorce was permanent,” Puente said, referring to the role Kids Hurt Too Hawaii played in bringing solace to her children.

“Kids Hurt Too Hawaii helped them to see that they weren’t by themselves,” Puente said. “They saw other kids going through the same situation. It made them more aware of their feelings and helped them better express their feelings.”

Puente’s two children are among the more than 250 grieving children, between ages 3 and 19, who every year turn to Kids Hurt Too Hawaii for a safe space to express feelings about their loss of a parent to such factors as divorce, death and incarceration.

Training volunteers in grief and trauma care

Trauma Training
Cynthia White offers training in helping grief-stricken children.

Next Children’s Grief and Trauma Facilitator and Mentor Training: August 13, 14, 20, & 21, 2016.

HONOLULU — Kids Hurt Too Hawaii is training volunteers to help its efforts to bring solace to grief-stricken children. DATES MAY CHANGE DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES.

Click to download form: Training registration and questionnaire

The sessions are intended to develop a variety of skills centered around children’s grief and trauma.

Examples include understanding suicides, as well as the ability of crafts to help children cope with their grief.

The training comes at a time when Kids Hurt Too Hawaii is focused on attracting volunteers who are enthusiastic about the organization’s mission.

“We look forward to training volunteers who are willing to devote time and energy to helping grief-stricken and traumatized children, struggling with the loss of a parent, abuse, and/or neglect,” said Cynthia White, executive director of Kids Hurt Too Hawaii.”

For more information about the training, call (808) 545-5683.

Stepping in to help out

Donna Hodges gets helpful tips from Cynthia White
Donna Hodges (right) gets helpful tips from Cynthia White.

HONOLULU — A difference can start with one person.

Just ask Donna Hodges, a 53-year-old Makaha resident who adopted her two grandsons nearly five years ago after their mother could no longer care for them.

To hear Hodges tell it, her 33-year-old daughter, Rosina, never recovered emotionally from when, at age 7, her father died in prison.

Her daughter’s chronic mental-health problems left her grandsons with two choices: living in foster care or with their grandmother.

“Kids Hurt Too Hawaii really helped me give them hope,” said Hodges. “With my grandsons, who were ages 6 and 7 at the time, it was helping them vent and share their feelings. Now, at age 9 and 10, and watching me go through chemotherapy for breast cancer, it’s using woodcraft to help them overcome inner feelings. They would take their feelings out on the wood by sanding it and sanding it. Kids Hurt Too has been a way for them to see that they don’t have to keep their feelings bottled in. I really believe in Kids Hurt Too Hawaii.”

Seeking donors and volunteers

Hiro Ito working with children
Dedicated volunteers and donors are critical to Kids Hurt Too Hawaii's existence.
HONOLULU — As Kids Hurt Too Hawaii turns its attention to providing grief-stricken children with a safe space to express their feelings, the non-profit organization continues to seek dedicated donors and volunteers.

The renewed push comes at a time when the nonprofit organization is focused on addressing its two biggest challenges: engaging volunteers and raising funds.

Both are critical to its efforts to continue transforming grief-stricken children’s pain into newfound acceptance and self-esteem.

“A high priority for us is to attract volunteers who are enthusiastic about our organization’s mission and demonstrate their excitement by willingly devoting time and energy toward helping our organization reach its goals,” said Cynthia White, executive director of Kids Hurt Too Hawaii.

For more information, call (808) 256-3176.

Taking training abroad

Kids Hurt Too Hawaii offers training in Japan.
Kids Hurt Too Hawaii offers training in Japan.
HONOLULU — Kids Hurt Too Hawaii continues to expand its efforts to help children struggling with the loss of a parent.

Grief-stricken children in orphanages across Japan are the latest example of the nonprofit organization’s international reach.

Adults who experienced life in Japan’s social welfare system are benefiting in a big way from a two-day training session organized by Kids Hurt Too Hawaii, which helped them learn skills for engaging young people in conversations about their struggles.

At least one participant expressed appreciation for the training, which was characterized as helping him understand how his own experience could be helpful in the work he does with other youth.

“Our counseling and mentoring programs in Japan are intended to help traumatized children abroad draw strength from peers and relatives in their efforts to overcome sadness and feelings of isolation,” said Cynthia White, executive director of Kids Hurt Too Hawaii.

Drawing strength from peers

Cynthia White sits in on peer-support group meeting for kids who have lost a parent.

HONOLULU — For a glimpse of the effect of Kids Hurt Too Hawaii on grief-stricken children, look no further than a peer-support group that meets monthly at the Kukui Center near downtown Honolulu.

About 19 kids, who lost a parent to death, divorce, or incarceration, gathered for up to two hours to share memories of Thanksgiving Day together with their families.

The kids, between ages 3 and 12, also took turns talking about what they are thankful for as part of ongoing efforts by Kids Hurt Too Hawaii to help children, struggling with sadness and feelings of isolation, draw strength from their peers.

“Our hope is that our support can enhance a family’s ability to see a sad and despondent child smile again,” said Cynthia White, executive director of Kids Hurt Too Hawaii.