Home Hospice of the Piedmont camp reinforces to kids, teens that ‘they are not alone’ in their grief

Hospice of the Piedmont camp reinforces to kids, teens that ‘they are not alone’ in their grief

Crystal Graham
grief journeys camp
Journeys campers and volunteers walk to their campsite for a day of healing activities.

A number of children and teens from Central Virginia are on the path to healing after a day camp held Saturday in Free Union.

Hospice of the Piedmont hosted a Journeys Grief Camp for children and teens age 5-17 at Millington Stables.

This year’s camp, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, had many young people coping with feelings of grief and sorrow.

“The loss of a loved one can shape a child’s life,” said Kacie Karafa, an art therapist with the kids’ grief and healing program at Hospice of the Piedmont. “The Journeys camp provides a safe and supportive environment that allows grieving children and teens to discover that they are not alone, and their feelings are normal.”

The camp also connects the children and teens with others with similar life experiences.

“This may be their first time meeting a child who has lost a dad or a brother like they have,” said Karafa. “They get to have fun while they are thinking about their loved one.  Some of them have not had much fun in awhile or don’t feel like they should be having fun when they are so sad about what happened.”

The camp included snacks and lunch, games in the woods, art projects, s’mores and a closing fireside ceremony. The Living Earth School also facilitated nature-focused and expressive activities to promote grief healing.

“All of the activities are carefully considered to be healing in some way,” Karafa said. “We have many activities at our camp so that all children will find something they value or can benefit from on their grief journey.”

journeys day camp
A Journeys camper creates an art project using natural objects found in the forest.

Art projects, in particular, help children relax, release feelings, have fun, cope, identify feelings and recognize changes, Karafa said.

“Creating art can bring pleasure to the creator and help reduce stress which can influence mood,” she said. “When they make a piece of art and talk about it, they express what is inside of themselves in a safe way.”

grief journeys camp
Journeys campers write down memories of a loved one who died.

Instead of talking about themselves, they can talk about the artwork.

“Pleasant emotions can also be stimulated by tactile and sensory stimulation and greater confidence with art materials,” Karafa said. “They may feel pride in their artwork which contributes to psychological and physiological well-being.”

Community giving allows for all kids’ grief and healing programming including day camps to be offered free to the community. Hospice of the Piedmont provides grief and bereavement services to the Central Virginia service area including Albemarle, Augusta, Buckingham, Culpepper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison Nelson, Orange and Rappahannock counties, as well as the cities of Charlottesville, Waynesboro and Staunton.

For more information about bereavement groups for children, teens and parents, call Hospice of the Piedmont at (434) 817-6915 or visit www.hopva.org.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.