Facing the future: Hospice helps kids cope with loss

Childhood should be a magical time, a time when a child’s growing awareness of the world is met with a state of awe and wonder that adults sometimes envy. When a young person is confronted with the death or terminal illness of a significant loved one, though, this ephemeral state can shatter, leaving the child unprepared to confront some of the most difficult realities of human life.
For more than 22 years, Hospice of the Piedmont has been around to help families in Charlottesville and nine surrounding counties deal with end-of-life issues. Their “Journeys through the Seasons” was created especially to serve the needs of children ages six to 16 who have been affected by the serious illness or death of a loved one.
Using art and play as therapy, this one-day bereavement camp program gives kids the chance to interact with others their own age who have suffered a loss and to work through the normal human process of grieving.
“It’s a safe place to experience their feelings about loss,” said Kacie Woodard, an art therapist with the program. “Interacting with others lets kids feel they’re not alone, that their emotions are normal, and that it’s OK to laugh and play.”
The spring Journey will be held May 3 at Triple C Camp. Therapists and volunteers will lead a variety of activities, including a kite-making project in which kids will be invited to focus on their loved one as they decorate the kites. As they send the kite aloft, their wishes and hopes can soar up to the heavens as well.
The group of up to 30 children will also get to know each other and work on team-building skills on Triple C’s low ropes course. They will then travel to Walnut Creek Park to hike, canoe in the lake, and play water games. The day ends with a closing ceremony to which parents are invited in which the children memorialize their lost loved one and say goodbye to the group.
Any child who has experienced a loss is invited to participate in this free therapeutic camp, which is made possible through the generosity of the Rotary Club and Triple C Camp.
“It gives kids hope for the future,” Woodard said, “and mostly it just lets them have fun.”

Hospice of the Piedmont’s spring “Journeys through the Seasons” bereavement camp takes place May 3 from 9am-5pm at Triple C Camp. For information and an application, call the Journeys program at 817-6900 or 800-975-5501.

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