Bradley Wood, 9, didn't talk much about his sister, Dana, after she died in a car accident at age 18 in October 2002. He wouldn't speak about her at home. If a stranger asked, he wouldn't even acknowledge that he had two sisters, said his mom, Marchelle Wood of Falls Church.
The Children's Bereavement Support Group, led by Helen Fitzgerald, director of training for the American Hospice Foundation, helped Bradley handle his sister's death better. The tipoff that it was working? One day Wood asked Bradley how he had learned to climb their kitchen counter. He answered, "Dana taught me."
The moment, said Wood, was "a steppingstone for him. And as he gets older, he'll keep processing this."
The support group, sponsored by the nonprofit Haven of Northern Virginia, serves kids aged 6 to 12 who have lost a family member or friend. A new eight-week session is slated for this fall. Group activities include outlets for kids to express their anger -- through a "mad dance," for example, or by blowing up a paper bag and popping it, or throwing a Nerf-like ball against the wall.
Group counselors can often help grieving children when family members are preoccupied by their own bereavement. "It's hard to be there for everyone when you're in unfamiliar territory yourself," admitted Wood. Said facilitator Linda Huzzen about Bradley's spring session: "It was so gratifying to see the kids be able to heal. In the beginning they're just in tears, but before the eight weeks are over, they can talk about the death."
The group will meet Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting Sept. 30. To learn more, call 703-941-7000. Register by 5 p.m. on Sept. 29; space is limited.
-- Samantha Ganey