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Free one-day camp helps kids cope with grief


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – When a child loses a loved one, the grieving process can be complex and sometimes very different from the way adults cope. To help children and teens who have recently lost a loved one, Mountain States Hospice will offer a free one-day camp at Munsey United Methodist Church on June 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Camp Courage uses storytelling, games, art and relaxation to help kids work through their feelings. There is no cost, but pre-registration is required. Registrations must be received by May 28.

“Grief is a difficult process for anyone, including children,” said Lena Onks, volunteer coordinator for Mountain States Hospice. “Children go through the stages of grief just like adults do, but they act out their grief in a completely different way. It’s not always obvious that certain behaviors are part of the grieving process.”

It’s difficult for children to put their feelings into words, so the counselors at Camp Courage will help campers express their emotions through drawings and other expressive media. Parents will receive a take-home packet with a letter describing what their child experienced that day and contact information for various resources that can help with ongoing counseling if necessary.

Being with peers who are going through the same thing can be extremely beneficial, Onks said.

“Sometimes children hold back when their parents are around, and they don’t interact and express what they want to,” she said. “It’s important to let them have their own identity and deal with this process in their own way.”

Camp Courage is led by professional grief counselors and trained professionals including social workers, child life specialists and spiritual counselors. These volunteers have experience working with children in hospice, school and individual counseling settings.

Camp Courage is for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The program is sponsored by Mountain States Hospice and underwritten by Morris-Baker Funeral Home.

For more information, call (423) 431-6146; email April Collins, Medical Social Worker, Home Care and Hospice, at CollinsAS@msha.com; or visit www.msha.com/hospice.

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