I’m grateful for and passionate about the opportunity to help children learn how to process grief in a constructive way so they can again embrace life with confidence, enthusiasm and joy. That’s why I’m excited to share a guest blog about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, Children’s Grief Awareness Day.
By Jamie Muth, Executive Director, Solari Hospice Foundation
As I leave to go to work in the mornings, my two young children, ages 1 and 4, sometimes have trouble telling me goodbye. They’ll cry or hug me and plead, “Don’t go, Mommy.” Even though we all know I will be coming back in just a few short hours to get them, there’s always a bit of pain in the separation.
For millions of children, that goodbye isn’t temporary. One out of 20 children in our country will experience the death of a parent before they graduate from high school, while one out of every seven children will face the death of someone close to them. Children often take longer to deal with their grief than adults, they may have trouble expressing how they feel, or they may feel “different” or “alone,” like no one understands.
Grieving children need support. That’s why I hope you will join me in wearing blue on Thursday, Nov. 15, in recognition of Children’s Grief Awareness Day, an opportunity to let grieving children know that they aren’t forgotten in the midst of their grief. Observed on the third Thursday of every November – one week before Thanksgiving – Children’s Grief Awareness Day is intentionally set in the holiday season, because that’s often the most difficult time for survivors to cope with their grief.
As executive director of Solari Hospice Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides bereavement assistance to children and families, I see firsthand how important it is to help children find healthy ways to work through their inner turmoil and learn to be happy again. At our Camp Solari, a weekend-long bereavement camp for children (ages 6-17) and their caregiver(s), families gather in a safe and supportive environment, work with professional grief and loss counselors, and engage in a variety of fun, therapeutic activities.
Providing information on the grieving process can reassure a bereaved child that everything he or she is feeling is normal. It helps children to identify and express feelings which may be causing them confusion or angst and to share their fears with other children who are going through similar loss.
I’m always touched after listening to the stories of our campers, because I know – from personal experience – that at any time, tragedy or illness can befall any family and a child’s whole world can change. I know because when I was a young girl, I lost my six-year-old brother due to a terrible accident. It was devastating for my entire family. Every time I go to Camp Solari, I light a candle in his memory. Every time I think about his death, I think about what my life might have been like if I’d been able to grow up with him.
If you, like me, have a soft spot in your heart for grieving children, I would encourage you to “send a kid to camp” and help them heal. Currently, Camp Solari is offered in Las Vegas, Nev.; Houston, Tex.; and Phoenix, Ariz. Funding for these camps is critical to provide families with the counseling and tools they so desperately need. There is no cost for campers to participate. All donations – no matter how small – are greatly appreciated and truly make a difference.