Hospice offers healing program
Barbara Bannar’s greatest joy 12 years ago later turned into tremendous grief.
The civic-minded South Shore resident gave birth to twins, Brandon and Michelle. Michelle didn’t live beyond 10 months from a pulmonary condition, and the parents aren’t the only one who grieves the loss.
“They’d always say to me that without me they’d be lost,” the youngster said, as tears welled up in his eyes and his mother’s.
“He’s my ray of sunshine,” she said. “People have gone through this difficult experience. We’d like to try to give Brandon someone else to talk to.”
Barbara and her husband, Steve, are sending their son to Barton Hospice’s first bereavement camp at Camp Galilee scheduled in August. The camp’s main focus involves helping children deal with the loss of a loved one by meeting others going through the same experience.
The Bannar tragedy – which falls on Barbara’s birthday – has brought the family closer. Pictures of the family line the furniture in the dining room. Allison, 10, has a large photo on the wall of her room of the sister she never knew. And hugs are a regular part of the Bannar household.
“Brandon is very affectionate for being a boy, and I love it,” Mom said, while her son got cozy with his mother. “When he was an infant, he always wanted to sleep with someone, and I think that’s because he’s a twin.”
There’s an obvious loss, but overall, the family members talk through what they’re feeling and their experiences.
“We have to be careful. Sometimes he’ll fall back in the loss of Michelle,” she said.
When the children’s grandfather died seven years ago, it brought up a lot of old emotions.
Rebecca Phillipsen, a Barton social worker who’s organizing the camp, said the reaction is typical to families dealing with grief at different points in their lives. And she’s found in putting on three bereavement camps that children grieve differently than adults.
“When a child loses someone at age 5, he or she has a 5-year-old’s understanding of death. Later on, the child may ask again. It’s not unusual for the child to hear the same story again at different stages,” Phillipsen said.
The social worker mentioned the tendency for parents to want to protect the child by refraining from having a discussion on it if it brings up sadness.
“But tears are important,” she said.
Grief comes with no textbook and no lecture, but Phillipsen has heard of practically every situation. In the case of twins, she’s found a surviving twin working through the pain of losing someone who entered the world with the child.
“I just tell people: ‘I don’t have all the answers. But we’re here to help each other find the answers,'” she said.
Phillipsen has a number of activities planned during Camp Sunrise to help the children see they’re not alone. At least a dozen people have signed up.
The camp will feature an exercise that involves taking meaningful items they find at camp and place them on their “power stick” they take home at the end of the weekend.