Grief can make special days harder

When you’ve lost someone you love, the year that follows is inevitably a year of firsts without that person. Celebrations like the first Thanksgiving, birthday or Mother’s Day without someone who played a major role in your and your family’s life will be especially hard. This is also true for personal milestones, like graduations and first days of school, many of them involving children. What’s the best way to face these days when, rather than feeling festive, you’re feeling the loss most keenly?

Depending on the occasion and your grief, you may even be wondering if you should skip the day altogether. Trying to ignore important occasions can also be painful, so that probably isn’t the best strategy. For families coping with bereavement, it isn’t uncommon to experience moments of joy along with some sorrow on significant days. Thinking ahead of time about how to make the day easier for your family can help.

Acknowledge emotions

First, acknowledge that this will likely be a difficult day for your family. Recognizing this is important. Sometimes families — both parents and children — feel they need to put on a brave face when they are feeling sad. But it is okay to feel sad and show grief. “As a rule of thumb, avoidance is a bad idea because it makes us feel worse in the medium and long term,” notes Jamie Howard, a clinicial psychologist and director of the Trauma and Resilience Program at the Child Mind Institute, “Our emotions don’t really respond well to being closeted. They find a way out.” Hiding your own grief can also make your children feel like the sadness they may be feeling is bad. However, try not to let children see you at your most upset moments, as they may begin to worry about you or feel insecure.

Let the children know that however they are feeling is fine, and they don’t need to hide it. If they want to say, “I really miss him,” that’s okay. On the other hand, kids also shouldn’t feel that they are expected to be miserable all day. It is common and healthy for kids to go in and out of grief, and take comfort in playing. Younger children in particular, who might not realize the significance of the day, will probably want to play and have fun, and that’s fine, too.


Make a plan

Dr. Howard says it’s a good idea to make a plan for how the day will look, and to share that plan with the kids. Making it somewhat predictable, so they know what to expect, who will be there, and what it will be like can make everyone feel like they have a little more control.

If you are churchgoers, you might plan to go to church first thing and then go home and have breakfast. Or maybe you’ll wake up, make pancakes together and then take a walk. If people are coming over for lunch, let the children know who will be coming over. Then maybe next on the schedule they’ll have some free time to play or hang out before dinner.

Do what you can to include favorite traditions when you are planning your day, too. It may feel bittersweet, but people find comfort in traditions, and they can help the day feel special.


Remembering is part of grieving and part of healing, so think about doing something to memorialize your loved one. It will be sad, but Dr. Howard says it can help in the grieving process. In the case of a deceased parent, for example, maybe that means taking the occasion to talk to the kids about how special their mother was, tell favorite stories, and let the kids know that some of the things that she taught them will be with them forever, even though she isn’t here now. If she really liked flowers, maybe you could plant some flowers in honor of her. If she liked to collect things, maybe you could put her collection in a place you’ll pass by it frequently, and think of her.

Ask for help

One very important consideration when making a plan for the day is for parents and caregivers to consider what they can get through emotionally, and what might be helpful to them. Parents should certainly ask for other family members and close friends to be on hand to support them  if that would be useful. Maybe a relative could help make dinner, play a game with the kids, or even just be present  to backstop or take over if a break is needed.


Play therapy is a form of treatment that helps children and families to express their emotions, improve their communication, and solve problems. It helps children to make sense of difficult experiences and deal with psychological and emotional distress through play. Play therapy capitalizes on children’s natural ability to express their feelings and resolve conflicts through play. Play therapy differs from regular play in that the therapist helps children to address and resolve their own problems. Through play therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behavior, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others. With a play therapist they can explore various issues they might find difficult to express in other ways. Therapists strategically utilize play therapy to help children express what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings (Gil, 1991). In play therapy, toys are like the child’s words and play is the child’s language (Landreth, 2002). Play Therapists receive extensive training in subjects such as child development and attachment (the bonding process). They are also trained to use play, a child’s natural form of expression, as a means for understanding and communicating with children about feelings, thoughts and behavior.

Bost C.A.R.E.S. utilizes this form of therapy on a regular basis. C.A.R.E.S. has a play therapy room as well as 3 counselors that are trained in play therapy. For more information regarding play therapy and/or to make a referral, please contact the Director of Bost C.A.R.E.S.: Jackie Scarboroug, Ph.D., LPC, ACS, BCPC at 479-784-1449 or

To:  All Bost Employees

From:  Katie Raines, Executive Director

Re:  Summary of 2018 Employee Survey Results

Date:  March 6, 2019

Thank you for taking time to respond to the BOST employee survey. I am pleased to say that our goal to increase our response rate was met. This year there were 381 responses, a notable increase from 266 last year. This is our second year using survey monkey therefore; we are able to show you data to compare from last year and this year. It is important for us all to be cognizant of what we do well and where we need to make improvements. Your input is valuable and shows your dedication.

This has been another year of change with a lot of uncertainties, which makes it more difficult to ensure we are meeting not only the needs of those we serve, but each of you-who are the heart and soul of what we do. Your concerns with employee recruitment and retention are shared amongst your management and leadership team of BOST and are also a topic of national interest and discussion.

Though we believe we have made some small strides in our recruitment and retention, we have much more work to do. Employee recruitment and retention will stay as our top strategic goal for the upcoming year. We are working with Legislatures and state leaders for a bill to provide a rate increase for our services, which will enable us to keep up with the minimum wage increases and allow us to become more competitive in wages and benefits for each of you. You, our employees, are our most valuable asset and we are committed to making improvements in your employment; which in turn improves the quality of services for the 1000 children and adults we serve.

I once read that the only way to do great work is to love what you do. I am not sure about other career paths, but I do believe this to be true in our jobs. Though this job is challenging at times the rewards of helping others has no price tag and I can truly say that I love my job. I challenge each of you to stay focused on the positive differences you make each day and to love your job.

If you have any further comments or suggestions please feel free to get with your department director or email me at . Thank you for sharing your talents and compassion with BOST.

Question 1:  I feel Bost keeps me informed about what is occuring in the agency.

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Question 2:  I feel the training I receive at Bost helps me do my job well.

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Question 3:  I know what is expected of me in my job.

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Question 4:  I have the information, materials, and equipment I need to do my job.

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Question 5:  I feel appreciated and recognized by my supervisor.

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Question 6:  This past year I have had opportunites at work to learn and grow.

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Question 7:  I believe what Bost management tells me.

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Question 8:  My supervisor and top management at Bost are accessible to me.

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Question 9:  I feel my supervisor is fair when dealing with employment issues.

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Question 10:  I feel valued by Bost.

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Bost CARES staff, Kristin Wagner, LPC and Pablo Albuja, LAC recently spoke with kindergartners, first graders and second graders at Tate Elementary School in Van Buren about how to make friends. Students learned about different types of friends they may have in their lives (acquaintances, friends and best friends) and how they should interact with each. Students also learned how to initiate new friendships and include others to create positive peer interactions.

Tate Elementary is aimed at being a trauma-informed school by recognizing and responding to the behavioral, emotional, relational, and academic impact of traumatic stress on those within the school.

Addressing social issues within the school environment helps students learn how to communicate with their peers in a positive manner, work as a team, establish healthy boundaries in relationships, become more aware of the needs of others and ultimately, reduce instances of bullying. Teaching such skills at an early age will help these students as they transition into adolescence and adulthood.

The ArTs at Bost program just got a fantastic boost, thanks to the Blue & You Foundation!  The program began in 2017 as a fun and educational way to for individuals served by Bost, Inc. to find a creative outlet, help them achieve their goals of artistic expression, and greatly improve their belief in themselves.   ArTs at Bost has had two art exhibits in Fort Smith and has taken the “show on the road” to a show in Little Rock.

With the nearly $7,000 grant, the program will expand to include more classes, an additional art exhibit, a calendar publication, and other opportunities to showcase the work of those served by Bost. 

“Our grants this year went to programs across the state that address such issues as nutrition and exercise, food insecurity, emergency medical services and medical professional education,” said Patrick O’Sullivan, executive director of the Blue & You Foundation. 

Bost, Inc.’s mission is people supporting individuals with disabilities and behavioral health needs to meet their life goals through their vision of communities working together empowering individuals to improve their overall health and achieve greater independence. 

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield established the Blue & You Foundation in 2001 as a charitable foundation to promote better health in Arkansas. The Blue & You Foundation awards grants annually to non-profit or governmental organizations and programs that positively affect the health of Arkansans. 

In its 17 years of operation, the Blue & You Foundation has awarded $33 million to 1,566 health improvement programs in Arkansas.  The Blue & You Foundation received 232 grant applications in 2018 requesting $17 million in support.  

The foundation is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and serves the state of Arkansas. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization.