Sometimes children think they cannot talk about a loved one who has passed away. They don’t want to upset the adults and, therefore, keep it all bottled up.
Since Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice understands this dilemma, it is once again offering its Memories Matter Bereavement Camp for children ages 5-12. It is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16 at Camp Aldrich; registration is open until Oct. 13.
There is no fee and those interested should contact GBHH&H for a registration form by calling 620-792-8171 or stopping by its office at 3520 Lakin, Suite 105. They can also visit ckmc.org and click on the Memories Matter link.
Pre-registration is required so counselors have information that will equip them to better understand the children’s circumstances.
Heather Hicks, rural Great Bend, and her family have two years experience with Memories Matter and she recommends it to others.
"Memories Matter lets children know that it is okay to talk about what they are feeling," Hicks said. "They can open up about the person who has passed away and it helps them remember the good times. It also fosters an empathy for the other kids at the camp."
Hicks’ children lost their great-grandmother; her stepchildren lost their stepfather, cousin and great-grandfather.
"I want to encourage other families to take advantage of this wonderful camp," Hicks said. "It doesn’t matter whether the loved one died recently or a while ago.
"While the camp itself is a great day for everyone, what comes later is equally important," Hicks added. "My son was upset at one point because he couldn’t remember something about his great-grandma. The things we learned at Memories Matter allowed him to feel free to ask questions and talk about her."
Hicks chose to stay with her children during the camp but parents are also free to leave. Donita Wolf, GBHH&H director, noted the choice is strictly up to the parents.
"We want them to do whatever is most comfortable for their family and understand that children do experience grief," Wolf said. "But a child’s understanding is different from that of an adult. There are intense feelings of separation and anxiety.
"Adults sometimes don’t realize these traumatic effects on a child," Wolf added. "They may believe a child is too young to understand death or they may be too overcome with grief to comprehend the feelings of others."
Trained counselors will guide children at the camp through several fun activities designed to help heal the mind, body and spirit, Wolf said. These include music, art, a puppet show and hayrack ride.
"Youngsters may be a bit apprehensive at the beginning of the camp but they become more relaxed as the day goes on," Wolf noted. "When they interact with their peers, they feel free to open up."
GBHH&H began offering Memories Matter in 1999. It collaborates with local and area school counselors and The Center for Counseling and Consultation in Great Bend while preparing for the camp.
GBHH&H is a non-profit agency and a member of the Central Kansas Medical Center family.