When Kristi Beran learned about Memories Matter Bereavement Camp last year, she thought it would be a good opportunity for her daughter, Sarah, who was 10 years old at the time.
Beran also thought it might be a good venue for her to discover new ways to understand Sarah’s grief after losing her dad.
She was right on both counts.
Beran’s husband and Sarah’s father, Eric, passed away on May 19, 2014. He had pancreatic cancer.
Mother and daughter attended Memories Matter together and they anticipate going again this year. Eric’s father died May 21, 2015.
“We want to attend the camp again to honor not only Eric and his dad but also my mom who died April 7, 2012,” said Beran, of Odin.
Memories Matter is designed for children ages 5-12 who have lost a loved one. This year’s event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 at Heartland Farm.
Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice, which is part of the St. Rose Health Center family, created and sponsors the annual camp. It is free of charge and St. Rose underwrites the cost.
“At the time of the camp last year, we wanted to take a day to stop and remember Sarah’s dad,” Beran said. “We wanted to handle the emotions as they came.
“Yes, there was sadness,” she acknowledged. “But we also looked at photos of Eric and Sarah, which camp organizers encourage. It is good to stop and think of the good times, as well as those that are difficult. I didn’t want our family to ignore our emotions; we need to deal with them,” Beran added, noting she has another daughter, Hannah, who is now 15.
Because of her age, Hannah hasn’t been eligible for the camp but her mom believes the whole family has benefited from the experience.
Like any other mom, Beran had been wondering if her younger daughter was handling her grief in a healthy way. Memories Matter gave her assurance that Sarah was doing okay.
“The camp reassured me about Sarah,” Beran said. “You wonder sometimes: how are they doing in the grieving process, especially young girls losing their dad. You want to make sure they are not in denial.
“I learned Sarah was doing okay,” she elaborated. “Her responses and reactions have been normal and healthy. I didn’t need to be as concerned as I was. The camp also gave me a springboard to conversations about Eric. It gave me ideas on ways to talk about him with our children.”
Beran is now part of “kind of a club” with other parents she met last year and recommends the camp to other families.
“This is an awesome service that is needed locally,” she commented, noting her appreciation for Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice (GBHH&H). “Being at Heartland Farm is a good experience – just being outside together, and interacting with nature, the animals and one another. The children know that if they do cry, they don’t have to worry. Everyone understands.”
Donita Wolf, RN manager of GBHH&H, encouraged families to consider attending the upcoming Memories Matter camp.
“Grief and mourning are natural reactions to the death of a loved one,” Wolf said. “Grieving is a process, not a one-time event. And children grieve differently than adults. All feelings are okay and children learn through play.”
The day-long event includes music, art projects, games and a puppet show. Trained counselors guide campers through these activities that are designed to provide healing for body, mind and spirit, Wolf noted.
Heartland Farm is located 12 miles west of 10th and Patton in Great Bend, and then a half-mile south.
For more information, contact GBHH&H by calling 620-792-8171 or visit www.strosehc.com . The non-profit agency’s office is located at 3520 Lakin, Suite 102.
St. Rose specializes in primary care, prevention and wellness. Services include St. Rose Family Medicine, Convenient Care Walk-in Clinic, Great Bend Internists, imaging, infusion clinic, WellnessWorks, one-day surgical procedures, Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice and a comprehensive Specialty Clinic. St. Rose is co-owned by Hays Medical Center and Centura Health.