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The loss of a sibling can be a crushing blow, one that could bring any person to their knees. But that wasn’t an option for Chanel. When her sister passed away and left behind two young daughters, her first priority became Berlynn and Leah. Chanel went from a young professional to a single guardian in the blink of an eye. Becoming a parent overnight would be intimidating for anyone, especially when grieving.
She knew that she couldn’t navigate this on her own, so she reached out to the community around her. A coworker told her about the many grief services available for both youth and adults at Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County. “My coworker had used the grief support services after someone in her family had also passed away suddenly,” Chanel said. “She assured me that it was a free service to community members. It sounded like the perfect option for the girls and me to gain help.”
Her friend also told her about a day camp for children entering grades K–6 who are experiencing grief and loss issues.
“Though the girls are both close in age, they handled their mom’s death very differently; their grief showed up at different times in different ways. For that reason, I was anxious about how they would handle camp,” Chanel said. “I didn’t want it to reopen their wounds every day. From the first interaction I had with the camp director, I could tell they were very open and honest with the kids, but they also allowed each child to process in whatever way was needed. The activities were diverse and interactive, and both of my nieces ended up loving the experience. After the second day, they couldn’t wait to go back.”
The grief camp experience proved to be beneficial to more than just the girls. At the memorial ceremony held at the end of the experience, Chanel was able to see her nieces’ growth in just one week. “I also realized I, too, needed to hear the ‘grief rights’ and allow myself to grieve, even while caring for others,” she said. “I went in thinking it was only an experience for them, but it was for all three of us.”