Young boy with woman hugging at the Christopher's Camp event

Helping children cope with grief

Every day after school, Lawson Page would head straight over to his grandparents’ house next door. He wanted to tell Papa about his day. On the weekends, they enjoyed playing sports and cheering on the Carolina Panthers. And each Wednesday, Lawson and his grandfather went to dinner at Wade’s Restaurant.

Lawson’s grandfather, Jerry Houck, was diagnosed with cancer in February. He died only four months later. His rapid decline and death hit the whole family hard. It left a major void in the 15-year-old Lawson’s life.

“He lost his best friend,” said Lawson’s mother, Leslie Page.

Houck died at Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home. It was a difficult time for the family, but Leslie is grateful for the care her father received.

“He was loved and taken care of in a dignified kind of way,” she said.

In addition to caring for patients at the end of life, Spartanburg Regional Hospice also provides bereavement support for families. Leslie learned about a program offered by Spartanburg Regional Hospice to help children grieving the loss of a loved one – Christopher’s Camp. Page thought it would help Lawson through his difficult time.

This year, Christopher’s Camp is held at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Spartanburg.

This one day camp is named for Christopher Mockabee, a 5-year-old who died in the care of Spartanburg Regional Hospice. It’s one of the only bereavement programs for children and adolescents in the Upstate. Christopher’s Camp brings together both children and parents/guardians who are grieving the loss of a loved one. In age-appropriate groups, children engage in writing and art activities, and discuss their feelings, and experiences.

While the children are learning about ways to cope with their loss, the adults attend a special session where they are coached on ways to provide support and help continue their child’s healing process. The adults and children are then reunited to share lunch together. The day ends with a balloon release to remember their loved ones.

“The camp helps children realize they are not alone in loss,” said Christi Foster, manager of bereavement services for Spartanburg Regional Hospice. “When you’re a child, you don’t realize how big the world is and that things are happening to other people too. It’s huge for them to understand they’re not the only ones who are hurting.”

That was a valuable connection for Lawson, Page said.

“I was thankful for him to have the opportunity to realize that other people have experienced the same kind of pain,” she said.

The Hospice Special Needs Fund of the Spartanburg Regional Foundation provides funding for Christopher’s Camp, as well as other Spartanburg Regional Hospice programs. The fund supports the healing process, which can include remembrance services, grief support groups and individual counseling.

“Christopher’s Camp is open to the entire community,” Foster said. “The whole day feeds my soul – being able to work with the children, to help them cope with their feelings, and to help them speak to their parents and guardians about their feelings. If the camp helps even just one child, then it’s worth it.”

For more information about Christopher’s Camp, please call Spartanburg Regional Hospice at 864-560-3856.