For children, dealing with the death of a loved one presents unique challenges.
They look to adults for cues but often, “Adults have a hard enough time talking about it as it is,” said Sheila Jones, director of marketing and public relations for Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care Center.
“We tend to shy away from those conversations,” she said, possibly assuming young ones don’t understand.
“They really do,” said Jones, but are capable of learning positive ways to deal with grief.
The Brighter Days Children’s Camp, hosted by Mountain Valley Hospice’s bereavement department, is aimed at just that.
By facing the difficult topic head-on and by participating in activities related to their feelings, “children get to understand that grieving is a natural part of what happens when they lose someone,” Jones said.
Being with other children who have experienced the same thing helps too, Jones said.
“It helps them learn that they’re not alone in their feelings or their sadness.”
Brighter Days will be held this summer on three different dates and locations:
• Friday, June, 17, in Stuart, Virginia, at DeHart Park, 212 Johnson St.
• Thursday, June 23, in Galax, Virginia, at Galax Parks & Recreation Center, 601 South Main St.
• Thursday, July 14, in Mount Airy, at Oak Crest Cottage, 173 Cain Road.
The camps are free and only require prior registration and proof of immunization to attend.
Small and large group activities will include a puppet-show, a relay race and art therapy as well as “discussion-based,” activities.
“It’s OK to grieve,” Jones said. “We just want them to grieve in a way that they can cope and deal with what their facing.”
The activities allow each child a means to express their feelings while transforming them into something positive, a skill that can be carried on throughout life.
Other activities help memorialize the children’s loved ones.
“Sometimes we think we’re supposed to forget about a loved one,” Jones said.
“We’re supposed to remember them and cherish those memories. The camp is about helping children understand that they can do that and also look for the positives, not for the sad part.”
Each day of camp ends with a memorial service that includes a balloon release attended by the children’s families.
“Which helps them all have that together, the family as a whole,” Jones said. “We try to help them understand that they do have a loss and we understand that it breaks their heart, but they can take that and turn it into a good feeling or a good memory and help them cope with that in that manner.”
Individual grief counseling for children is also available through Mountain View’s “Kids Path” program on an ongoing basis.
For more information about Brighter Days or to obtain a registration packet visit www.mountainvalleyhospice.org or call 336-789-2922.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.