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Wednesday August 15, 2018

By Kristie Byrd, Director of Family Services-NC

Mountain Valley Hospice features a variety of support to help young people who are grieving due to loss. 

For example, the Kids Path program at Mountain Valley Hospice offers Brighter Days Camp. It is a no-cost camp experience for children and teens who have suffered a loss. Through art, music, and recreational experiences, children come together in a therapeutic environment to learn that mourning is not a process of forgetting but a way of remembering with less pain. Camp is planned with the developmental needs of children in mind. Activities are led by Mountain Valley Hospice’s professional bereavement staff and specially-trained volunteers. Using their expert knowledge in grief and loss, these individuals provide support for children while they are learning to appropriately express their emotions and cope with their feelings in healthy ways.

Five camps were scheduled across this past June and July, in North Carolina and southern Virginia. Thirty-four campers were served.

Because the life cycle of the butterfly is much like the process of grief, the butterfly served as the camp’s theme. Just like a caterpillar, a child may go through life feeling happy-go-lucky. When a child has a loss, it may feel like being caught up in a chrysalis: dark, sad, and scary. However, once the child has worked through grief, he or she can emerge as a butterfly. Also, grief cycles much like the life of a butterfly. Even though the butterfly emerges, there still may be some sad and difficult times, but the butterfly spreads his wings and learns to fly.

Camp is an important event for the children who attend. It provides a safe environment to share feelings and emotions. They discover that there are others their age who are suffering and working through grief. Although children tend to be resilient, connecting with other children makes them feel valued and not alone. 

At camp this year, the children participated in paint therapy, music therapy, and pet therapy. They had times of recreation and fun, too. During paint therapy, they painted pictures to represent their feelings, their loved ones, and/or memories. This provided an outlet for their emotions and gave them the opportunity to share those emotions with others. One child painted a colorful picture and quickly covered it with brown paint. He explained that this is how he felt after his loved one died: All the color went away. 

A variety of crafts surrounding the butterfly theme were made, such as sock caterpillars, tissue paper chrysalises, and butterfly mosaics. One child, who had some fears and worries, said she would put those in her chrysalis every night so she could go to sleep. While arts and crafts may sound simple, the comfort they provide may be greater than anyone could imagine.

Camp is open to children ages 5-18, for a loss within the last two years. Brighter Days occurs annually in the summer. However, our Kids Path program offers year-round bereavement counseling for children. Call Kristie Byrd, Director of Patient Services-NC, or Stacie Adams, Kids Path Counselor, at 1-888-789-2922 for more information.

Tags: Kid's Path