Newton, NC – Daniel Hastings knows all too well what it feels like to be a child grieving the loss of a loved one. In the span of just 13 months, he lost three of his closest family members.
Living just down the street from his grandparents, Daniel could often be seen playing in their yard, climbing a tree or sitting in the swing talking to his grandmother or grandfather. They always had a special bond between them. One week, Daniel was blowing out nine candles on his colorful birthday cake. A few weeks later, on a snowy February afternoon in 2013, he was by his mother and father’s side at his grandmother’s funeral. Daniel felt the ache and emptiness of his first loss. He struggled, as children often do, with trying to understand what had happened.
Sadly, just a few months later, this bright-eyed little boy would also lose his hero- -his father, Donald. He died just before Christmas. Then, his grandfather died the following March. Three of the people he loved the most had passed away within a matter of months. How does a child tell you their heart is breaking? How do you reassure a kid that they are not alone? That there are other children who have also lost people close to them?
Thankfully, for children like Daniel and others in our community, Catawba Regional Hospice and Rising Hope Farms in Claremont have teamed up once again to offer Brighter Days Children’s Grief Camp. During the one-day camp experience, kids can be with other children who have also suffered a loss. The day is filled with times to share their memories and feelings in age-appropriate groups, play fun games, fish, paddle-boat and make crafts. The added camp location also provides an opportunity to interact and ride one of the horses at the farm.
“The horses connect with the children’s feelings in a non-verbal way to help them emotionally and mentally express their feelings,” said Gail Wartner, owner of Rising Hope Farms. “It is a wonderful experience that touches your soul.
Chastity Logan, CRH bereavement counselor, couldn’t agree more. “It’s a beautiful day filled with hope, allowing kids to understand that they are not alone and leaves them with peace that they can make it through their grief journey.”
As a Brighter Days alumnus, Daniel looks back on his time at the camp as a positive experience and one that gave him an opportunity for healing.
Brighter Days Children’s Grief Camp welcomes any young person in the community ages 6-18 who has experienced the loss of a significant loved one. It is not restricted to families of Catawba Regional Hospice patients.
This year’s camp will be held Friday, July 27 from 9am- 3:30pm.
There is no cost to participate in the camp, and lunch is included. Spaces are limited, so reservations are required. The deadline to reserve a spot for your child is July 19.
Photo: Campers participating in a unique opportunity to paint/decorate a horse at the Brighter Days Grief Camp.