For many, the concept of hospice care brings to mind care and comfort for those approaching the end of their lives. However, those who are left with grief following a death, especially those too young to fully grasp the concept, are often in need of their own specialized care.
Home Hospice of Grayson, Cooke and Fannin Counties is accepting registration for a weekend retreat this March for children experiencing and coping with a recent loss. The retreat will be a part of the group’s Camp Dragonfly program, which assists children ages 8 through 12 work through the complicated emotions that come with losing a loved one alongside other children with similar experiences.
The camp will be held from March 8 through March 10, with a second session scheduled for October. The expenses for the camp are offset by grants, and there is no expense to the children’s families, Nancy Jackson, director of community development for Home Hospice, said.
“Kids need support when coping with loss, and the kind of support that they need today is becoming more and more complicated even compared to 10 years ago when we started this,”Jackson said.
Home Hospice first started in 1982 and offered hospice and palliative care for individuals across the region who otherwise would not have access to these services. Jackson said Home Hospice also provides bereavement services to family members as a part of its services.
“We saw that many of the families we worked with had children,” she said. From this, organizers looked for ways to specialize bereavement care for children who have recently lost a family member.
Over the past 11 years, the camp has seen more than 300 campers attend the weekend event. Jackson said the camp has seen campers that have just experienced a recent loss and those who may have experienced it about two years prior to attending.
“Many times, even out of the first year, they are still dealing with that loss,” Jackson said.
Twice a year, organizers for the camp take about 20 children to Camp All Saints for a three day retreat featuring group activities and games alongside exercises aimed at exploring the complex emotions involved with grief. Jackson said these emotions can range from anger, depression and sadness to guilt over the death of a loved one.
“With adults we have learned that you should have grief and maybe some mourning with that,” she said. “It isn’t always true, but we learned that. Kids haven’t learned that yet.”
Other common fears include a resistance to major change, like those that come when someone close to you dies. Jackson said this uncertainty can stay with a child even a year or more after the initial loss.
“Kids are very resilient, but once you experience that major change, you don’t go back to exactly where you were before,” she said.
The weekend activities include some aimed at remembering the loved one, including writing letters and creating a memory box, and expressing those feelings in a safe environment. Jackson said she once sat next to a girl who was painting two pictures — one describing a memory she had of her loved one, and another expressing the feelings she felt now.
“Her painting was pretty dark, and I discovered that she felt guilt over it,” Jackson said. “It was her birthday.”
For more information on Camp Dragonfly, or to apply for this year’s spring camp, please call Home Hospice at (903) 868-9315 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.