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Caring for Our Grieving Community

Center for Grief and Healing

Over the last year, the Center for Grief and Healing staff provided continuous and supportive care to those grieving the loss of a loved one, whether they are a Hospice of the Piedmont family member or friend, or a community member – all at no cost, thanks to private philanthropy. Bereavement groups that were available and active throughout the year include a spouse/partner loss groups, a men’s group, the Remembering our Children group, drop-in groups and general grief support groups in both the Culpeper and Charlottesville locations.

Bereavement Services also navigated significant changes this year. Alice Golder, cherished Bereavement Coordinator for Charlottesville and surrounding counties, retired from her position in December 2019. Craig Wilt, Bereavement Coordinator at Hospice of the Piedmont’s Culpeper office, covered services for Charlottesville and Culpeper areas until Teresa Haase, the new Director of the Center for Grief and Healing came on board in January 2020. Craig, Alice, and Greg Nelson, Manager of the Bereavement Department, facilitated a seamless transition and continuous care for our community.

On the heels of this staff transition came the nationwide emergence of COVID-19, which impacted all in-person services. All bereavement services moved to an online or telephonic platform. As our spring memorial services were canceled, the bereavement team created and distributed a virtual memorial service in order to help facilitate the grieving and healing process. Bereavement counselors and volunteers navigated this year with flexibility and adaptation, allowing for seamless grief support and resources to our community. Over the course of the year and throughout a season of change, bereavement staff, including counselors and volunteers, made 3,635 calls, held 753 in-person meetings, and facilitated 95 support group sessions. Our efforts could not have been so successful or far-reaching, without the generous support of our community, which allows us to provide all of our services free of charge.

Center for Children

During the last year, the Center for Children art therapists, known as the Journey’s team – Kacie Karafa, Stephanie Wilson and Darlene Green – conducted 1,030 meetings with children and families. They sent hundreds of bags filled with art supplies and grief support resources to families, presented about grief at schools, responded to immediate needs of families, planned camps, and conducted workshops and volunteer trainings. This impactful team has been nominated for the National Alliance of Grieving Children Excellence in Service Award. Another exciting development for the Center for Children was the construction of a new and designated Center for Children office and counseling space. In late February, construction was completed, and planning was in place to furnish the space as a play and art therapy room but was interrupted by the emergence of COVID-19.

In March, our therapists began providing weekly support and counseling to children and families via telephone and videoconferencing. Care packages and art materials were lovingly packed and mailed to our grieving children and families. Our Center for Children staff has been working with the National Alliance for Grieving Children, participating in special programs related to telehealth counseling to support children during a national emergency and during times of heightened anxiety and stress. Our staff will continue to expand their skills with grief counseling and art therapy via telephone and videoconference.

A virtual Journeys Camp took place daily during the week of July 27th-31st, with a wide variety of therapeutic programs specially designed for grieving children. Throughout the week, the children worked together to write a song that they enthusiastically performed together via ZOOM at the end of the week. It was truly amazing to see these grieving children relax, get to know each other and to work creatively and collaboratively to write lyrics to express their feelings.

The lyrics created by participants in the summer Journeys camp are below:

Every feeling has a color

And the colors change every day

You may think it’s a riddle

But feelings work that way

You may be sad, you may be glad

But that could change every day

You may be scared, you may be mad

But feelings work that way

Sometimes you can’t control them

But sometimes you can

Every feeling has a purpose

It’s something to understand.

They’re experienced every day

Always reach out for help

If you need a hand.

We are grateful to our generous friends and benefactors who make these special programs possible. We would like to particularly thank The Charles Fund, The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, and Carol and John Pflug, who provided extraordinary support to Center for Children programs and ensured accessibility to therapeutic services for grieving children and families.

The zoom groups make it easy to connect with others who are grieving. I thought I would be ok on my own since I have weekly therapy sessions. Turns out I really needed to see and hear others talk about their grief journey and listen to my story

A Zoom Group Participant

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