Project Hope: Camp and Youth & School-Based Grief Support

2015 Camp collage

Hospice & Palliative Care has been a recognized community resource on grief issues by physicians, health agencies and other organizations for over 40 years. If left misunderstood, grief can manifest itself into many things – including physical illness and loss of self-esteem – seriously affecting the wellness of our children. Through close cooperation with community organizations such as schools, hospitals, pediatrician’s offices, county health departments, and churches, we hope to better identify and assist children affected by loss through illness, tragedy, and violence.

Children have their own individual responses to the death of a loved one. They may openly share their thoughts or they may act as though they don’t care. However, they do care and may have compartmentalized the loss – putting it in another part of their brain to deal with at a later time. When grief is not processed, the feelings may show up later as misdirected anger, fears of abandonment, numbing, panic, sleep disturbance, and learning disabilities. Therefore, it is necessary that children process grief in their own individual way and with age-appropriate strategies.

Grief Triggers

Triggers that cause grief include the following:

Death – a person’s life has ended. Someone we love is gone. It is difficult for young children, who have no concept of finite time to understand the finality of death.

Divorce – a family unit is forever altered. Divorce represents the end of a nuclear family’s existence.

Abandonment – someone we love or want to love leaves. Even single-parent children who have never known their fathers feel they’ve been deserted by their dads and endure the agony of great emptiness.

Illness or disability – well-being has ceased to exist.

Incarceration of a parent or sibling – children are deprived of a loved one’s daily presence.

Other types of loss – children may grieve for a home and treasures lost in a fire, flood, or other devastating disasters – death or loss of a pet; relocation – children grieve for the friends or school left behind when the family relocates. Suzy Yehl Marta, Founder and President of RAINBOWS Inc. Healing the Hurt, Restoring the Hope

School Grief Groups

In cooperation with local schools and guidance counselors, Hospice & Palliative Care staff provides support groups on-site to grieving children and teens at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. These groups help the youth cope with their grief and commemorate their loved one.

Camp Celebrate Hope

Camp Celebrate Hope is for children ages 6-14 who have experienced the death of a family member or a significant person in their lives. At Camp Celebrate Hope, participants learn about their grief and are encouraged to speak openly about issues of death and their grieving experience within a group of children their own age. Children learn new skills to help them build confidence and hope for the future. Together they create friendships and support that allow them to identify and express their feelings in a safe and caring environment. They also get the chance to participate in fun and organized activities.

Camp Celebrate Hope is available to children in Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, and Saluda counties.  The staff and volunteers at Camp Celebrate Hope are specially trained to work with grieving children and youth.  Camp staff includes social workers, nurses, chaplain, and volunteers from the community.  For more information or to make a referral, please call Hospice & Palliative Care of the Piedmont at 864.227.9393.