Grief center helps Baptist team members deal with tremendous losses

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The first Sunday in October will be a special day for kids and families in Memphis. The annual Camp Good Grief 5k will be held that day to help raise money for the camp. One teen, Sydney Smith, the daughter of Baptist team member Tracey Smith, has been participating in the 5k for years. Sydney and Tracey, who helps promote the race, have always been advocates for the event but now have an even more personal reason to support it.

A few years ago, Sydney’s half-sister, Jessica, lost her mother. Tracey knew the hurt associated with losing a parent and immediately took Jessica to the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief. She began counseling and was making good progress with her grief. A little over a month after the loss of her mother, Jessica and Sydney suddenly lost their father to acute myeloid leukemia. The bone cancer is known to rapidly worsen if not detected and treated quickly.

Tracey and Sydney’s father, Todd, had gotten divorced a few years prior to his passing. The divorce brought tension to Sydney’s relationship with her dad. When he was hospitalized, she didn’t get a chance to visit him before he died. Not seeing her father in his final days devastated young Sydney. She began having vivid nightmares of interactions with her father that ate away at her conscience and kept her up at night. “It was like being tangled up with emotions,” said Sydney. Tracey knew exactly what to do.

The following summer Sydney attended Camp Good Grief. The camp is full of games and counseling sessions to help guide kids through grief and teach them how to cope with loss. Upon arriving at Camp Good Grief they are paired with a buddy. These partners in grief are there to support the campers in their down time.

Sydney said, “One of my favorite moments at camp was when we wrote notes to our loved ones on a slip of paper and tied it to a balloon with a light in it. When I let my balloon go I got to watch it blend into the night sky and become one with the stars.”

The camp teaches the kids to celebrate their loved ones and allow themselves to grieve.

“Sydney came back an entirely different person…a better person,” said Tracey. “When I saw how much they helped her I knew even more then before how beautiful and necessary the grief center is.”

The counseling done at Camp Good Grief as well as the services provided in the center are free and confidential.

The professionals are able to handle many life situations associated with the loss of a loved one. Like with Sydney’s situation, many people who lose close relatives often have unresolved issues or guilt. The tools Sydney learned not only helped her grieve the loss of her father but strengthened her bond with her mother. She taught her mom how to grieve the right way.

Since her days of participating in the Camp Good Grief 5k, Sydney has been through a lot. She has lost two more close relatives but continues to stay in a good place with her grief. She still goes to the Grief Center and is in her freshman year of high school. Sydney and her mom continue to support the 5k and other events that benefit the camp .

“Of all the things that we do at Baptist, the grief center is by far the best thing we give to the community,” said Tracey.

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