WATERVILLE — Experiencing the death of a loved one is difficult for an adult, let alone a child. The loss is heartbreaking, confusing, and can leave one feeling alone and disconnected.

But there is help, and it is free.

Hope’s Place for Grieving Children, which Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area has offered since 2005, now is available in Skowhegan through Hospice Volunteers of Somerset County.

Hope’s Place provides a safe, supportive environment for grieving children, teens and families through peer support groups and serves youths ages 3 to 18 and their parents or caregivers.

Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area, located at 304 Main St., has hosted Hope’s Place since 2005, according to Susan Roy, executive director of that Hospice, which received a $10,000 grant from United Way of Mid-Maine to expand Hope’s Place to Somerset County. Waterville had hosted Hope’s Place from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, but changed the day to Wednesday starting this week.

“We found that we were seeing families coming down from Athens, Skowhegan and Pittsfield, and on a Thursday night it was a hardship on a school night,” Roy said. “We thought, why don’t we take what we have and share our knowledge so they (Somerset Hospice officials) can have a vibrant program there?”

Waterville Hospice officials are working with Somerset Hospice on the new Skowhegan program. The program, which began Tuesday, will be run from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday nights for six weeks, through Nov. 12. The hospice office is located in the Centenary United Methodist Church at 113 Dr. Mann Road, Skowhegan.

The $10,000 grant includes three 6-week sessions for next year and in 2021. After that the Somerset Hospice may apply for a grant to continue the program, according to Roy.

Those wanting to attend Hope’s Place may just show up, but it is better if they register ahead of time, she said. They may contact Jillian Roy, of the Waterville Hospice, at 873-3615, extension 19, or email [email protected]; or contact Amy Cunningham at the Somerset Hospice, at 474-7775 or [email protected]

Those interested also may obtain more information by contacting either Jillian Roy or Cunningham. Snacks are provided at the meetings.

Hope’s Place in Waterville has been successful and is modeled after the Grieving Children’s Program in Portland, according to Susan Roy. She said there is no limit to the number of meetings people may attend.

“Sometimes what we’ll find is a family will come quite soon after the loss of a loved one and come for years and then not come for years, and then something triggers that, such as a marriage,” she said. “They’re welcome to come and go as they please. What we also have seen is participants go on to become facilitators and take facilitator training, which is wonderful.”

She said Hospice can also bring Hope’s Place into the schools, if they are interested. Waterville Hospice did a pilot project in the spring at Educare Central Maine, an educational program for pre-kindergarten children on Drummond Avenue.

“We’re certainly willing to expand it into Somerset County as well,” she said. “It’s always free of charge.”

The Somerset Hospice serves all of Somerset County; the Waterville Hospice serves 27 communities in Central Maine.

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