Monday was a bittersweet anniversary for Kristi Feyers and her daughter Annabelle.
They remembered husband and father Darryl Feyers, who died suddenly five years ago, while helping the Henry Ford Health System announce the expansion of the SandCastles program.
Kristi and Annabelle, from Clarkston, are just one of nearly 2,100 families who have utilized the grief support services for children and teens offered by SandCastles, a division of Henry Ford Hospice.
"When something first happens, you feel like you are the only one who has lost someone," said Annabelle Feyers, who appreciates that she can meet with her peers at SandCastles. "They help you and you can help them ... you don’t feel alone."
Her mom also finds the program helpful for both the children and adults.
"When grief happens you have a lot of questions, not only as a parent on how to handle thing, but as a child on how to handle things," Kristi Feyers said.
The program has eight locations, including St. Clair Shores, West Bloomfield and Rochester—the location utilized by the Feyers.
The 15-year-old program, utilized by more than 6,000 people, has now been expanded to include four locations within the Detroit Public Schools through a $100,000 grant from the New York Life Foundation.
"Young people don't get enough attention particularly around losses in their families," said Nancy Schlichting, CEO, Henry Ford Health System, who shared that as a youth she didn't eat following the death of her grandmother.
SandCastles now offers services for free through program sites in southeastern Michigan, Camp Tamarack in Ortonville and now the Detroit Public Schools program.
The program also has the support of Michigan first lady Sue Snyder, who serves as a statewide spokesperson for grieving children.
"Their work (SandCastles) has given children and their families a safe place to grieve and to learn to heal," said Snyder, who has worked to raise awareness on children's grieving through a variety of programs. "I am not a therapist, I am not a counselor, I am a mom. And as a mom it is our job to protect and to nurture and support our children."
Snyder also discussed www.kidsgrief.org, an online resource for Michigan families that offers programs, camps and information for those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.
"Sometimes grief is very overwhelming and misunderstood," said Peggy Nielsen, SandCastles manager. "We provide a safe place for the journey of grief to occur."
For more information about SandCastles, call (313) 874-6881 or visit http://aboutsandcastles.org.