Turlock, CA- When a child experiences the death of someone close to them, they often feel alone. A new service from Emanuel Medical Center, the only one of its kind in the Central Valley region, hopes to change that.
Jessica's House is a grief support program for school-aged children which allows them to come together and express their grief with other children their age through talking and play.
"Jessica's House is based on the model of peer support," explained Erin Nelson, the executive director of Jessica's House. "It creates a safe place where children learn they are not alone in their experience."
If a child has faced the death of someone significant in their life, their family comes to an orientation and when they're ready, they bring the child to group sessions every other week. The first groups are forming now and will begin meeting the week of April 23.
The hour-and-a-half sessions are divided into two halves, with the first 45 minutes talking in small groups, and the second 45 minutes with the center's art, music, puppets and other activities. Groups are structured around age, the type of death and the child's relationship with the person who died, and each session is overseen by professional staff and highly trained volunteer facilitators. Parent and caregiver support groups run at the same time as the children's groups.
Families decide how long they will attend groups and the program is completely free. Jessica's House will be supported by Emanuel Medical Center and generous donations from area residents and businesses.
"Research shows that children who don't have a place to express themselves in loss don't do as well in life, and we know programs such as these do make a difference," Nelson said. "We want to support grieving families to help create a healthier and more compassionate community."
Jessica's House is named in memory of Jessica Everett, who was born April 5, 1995 in Turlock, to Michael and Danielle Everett. Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of six, she faced her disease
with determination and grace, often reaching out during her hospital stays to help other children who were ill. Jessica died in 2004, at the age of nine, yet her compassion for hurting families now lives on through the gift of Jessica's House through Emanuel Medical Center.
To learn more about Jessica's House, call (209) 250-5395 or visit emanuelmedicalcenter.org/jessicashouse. Jessica's House is located at 741 E. Main Street in Turlock. However, out of respect to grieving families, visits to Jessica's House are by appointment only.Emanuel Medical Center is a not-for-profit, community-based Christian hospital. Its 403-bed multi-level medical campus includes a 209-bed acute care hospital, a 145-bed skilled nursing facility and a 49-bed assisted living facility. It provides emergency, critical care, pediatric, cardiovascular services, cancer diagnosis and treatment, women's health services, surgery, and hospice services.
For more information, to search for a doctor by specialty or location, or for an online symptom-checker, visit www.emanuelmedicalcenter.org.