Therapy Helps Kids Deal with Loss of Loved One

Therapy Focuses on Helping Kids with Grief

Published: Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Daily Commercial, Leesburg, Florida



Don Hires was 15 in 1955 when his father died and he was told: "You have to be strong now, because you're the man of the house."

"All of my grief shut down," said the bereavement and spiritual care manager for Cornerstone Hospice. "Thirtysome odd years later is when it came back, and I had to deal with it."

He vented. He cried. He talked for hours, relating all the memorable moments in his life that his father missed: High-school graduation, college, marriage and babies.

"I ran the whole gamut of emotions that night," Hires recalled.


Don Hires, Bereavement and Spiritual Care Manager for Cornerstone Hospice.

Looking back, he believes he could have benefited in sharing his feelings sooner with a counselor. He also understands and sees firsthand how Cornerstone Hospice's one-on-one counseling sessions are valuable.

Bereavement support is offered at no charge to anyone in the community who has experienced the loss of a loved one.

"You do not have to bear the burden of grief alone," he said.

Cornerstone's support services includes group support, private counseling and children's programs.

Since children do not grieve in the same way or time frame as adults, Hires said Cornerstone Hospice has a Play Therapy Program designed for a therapist to work with one child at a time, where a child uses figurines, sand and other models to tell the story of his or her loss.

Hires shows a wall featuring drawings and masks made by those who have taken part in Cornerstone Hospice's new Grief Workshops. In these sessions, adults who have lost loved ones take part in sharing their feelings, via art and writing, to help aid in the healing process.

In "The Color of Grief," participants paint their grief using watercolors to express their feelings.

"It's therapeutic," Hires said. "One lady in the class said, 'After I finished painting, I felt so good.'"

In "Unmasking Your Grief," participants learn that they often hide their pain and sorrow behind a mask. Each is given a blank mask to recreate an outward expression of the inner grief that the world doesn't see. The masks are covered with printed words and pictures. One mask was drawn with blue teardrops, yet topped with a positive affirmation: "Take joy in the little things."

In the "Giving Words to Our Grief" journaling workshop, participants pen privately their feelings on paper and they can go back and see how far they have come in the healing journey.

To learn more about Cornerstone Hospice's bereavement services in Lake and Sumter counties, call 343-1341.