The loss of a loved one is tough for anyone, and often our children are forgotten during the grieving process.
The Hospice of the Piedmont Journeys Program helps children and teens deal with loss in their own unique way. Through therapy and talking to peers who are going through similar circumstances, children learn healthy ways to cope.
The program serves children age four through 18 throughout central Virginia. It's a six-week program where kids get group and individual counseling.
Every Thursday night there's a meeting - with pizza provided - where children, teens, adults, come together for counseling.
"They find out they're not alone," said Kacie Karafa, an art therapist for the Journeys Program.
"Children grieve just like adults do, and they're often forgotten, they're often not thought about as much because the parents are grieving," Karafa said. "We don't often realize that the kids need help too," she said.
Cousins Leah McGann and Aspen Morris went through the Journeys program after they lost their grandfather to lung cancer. McGann, a second grader at Greene County Primary School, said her family tried to comfort her grandfather before he died.
"We made a quilt for him and we made chains for him that had words for him telling him how much we loved him and 'hope you make it for Christmas,'" she said.
But the girls' grandfather didn't make it to see the holiday. He died just before Christmas this past year.
"I felt guilty and I was sad," McGann said.
"I felt like there should have been something I could have helped him with to help him survive," said Morris, a sixth grader at William Monroe Middle School.
Although the girls both expressed sadness and guilt over their grandfather's loss, they say the Journeys Program helped focus on positive memories, like raising chickens and gardening with him.
"We got a booklet and we drew, we talked about who our loved one was and how he died, we talked about memories about him. We did a bull's-eye about who helped us the most and what feelings we had when he died," Morris said.
"They helped for me letting out my feelings and we brought in shirts and we made a teddy bear so I can sleep with them and I can tell the teddy bear my feelings," McGann added.
McGann and Morris now have smiles on their faces when they talk about their grandfather.
"He's watching us from up there in heaven and he can just watch us so if we get hurt he can watch us," McGann said.
"I think that we had a lot of fun with each other and it was very fun to have the Journeys Program to help me through it," Morris said.
The Journeys Program is funded entirely through grants and fundraisers.