Kids who recently lost a loved one have been sharing and learning to cope this week at the Lizzie Wallace Memorial Grief Camp hosted by Hospice in the Pines.
The camp provides games, activities, crafts and more centered around handling grief together. On Wednesday, 10-year-old Holly Hanson Read shared photos of her daddy, James Eugene Hanson, with the other campers.
“He was a really good daddy,” Holly said. “Even though he was old, he took really good care of me.”
Sharing stories about him made her feel really good because it lets her keep the memories close, she said. Holly and the other campers also wrote letters to their loved ones. Writing the letter let Holly express her sadness about his death while also wishing him the best in heaven, she said.
“I didn’t want to have to write him the letter because I wanted him to live a little bit longer, but the thing is, I’m happy, not that he’s gone, but that he’s in heaven so he doesn’t have to suffer anymore,” she said.
The campers created works of art in different media. Holly said her favorite was her painting. At first, she thought it was going to look bad, but she said after adding certain colors, it turned out better.
“It’s kind of like a galaxy,” she said. “We got to make our own titles. It’s called ‘Holly’s Galaxy; what it means to me — transformation.’ I transformed it from ugly to pretty.”
Sisters Ada, 12, Emily, 9, and Jaycee Cosby, 4, also attended the camp. The painting portion was Ada’s favorite, and Emily said she liked meeting new friends.
Ada said the M&M game was the best. The campers were given a sheet that gave different meanings to the different colors of M&Ms. As the campers ate the M&Ms, they then spoke about the topic of their color.
“Yellow meant what made you excited, and I said peanut butter,” Emily said.
“Orange, which was the most popular apparently, was what was a good deed you did today,” Ada said.
One of the exercises that Emily said would stick with her was the breathing exercise.
Camp director and volunteer coordinator Shanna Averett said the students’ courage and bravery to open up impacted her deeply.
“From the first day they were here, it just keeps progressing, and everytime we have a session, they’re just so willing to share and let us see a glimpse of their pain,” she said. “Sometimes I have to fight back the tears.”
The camp is one of several programs Hospice in the Pines offers for grieving families, including a 13-month bereavement program.
“We try hard to not just help the patient but to help the entire family,” Averett said. “When someone is dying and they’ve been diagnosed, yeah, they’re hurting and we focus everything we can on them, but there’s a family there that once that person does pass away, they’re going to be left to pick up the pieces.”
This is the third year the Lizzie Wallace Grief Camp has been going, and Averett said there is almost triple the amount of students this year than there was last year.
For more information on the camp, follow its Facebook page or visit hospiceinthepines.org.