Love, Loss & Living
ALISTAIR CARMICHAEL was a big presence—tall, hilarious, and an epic storyteller. He worked hard, and played harder. From Friday family movie nights to making silly monkey moose sandwiches (Philly cheese steaks), he loved being a dad. Sadly, he died at just 34 years old.
Colleen was seven then, her sister three. She felt like she needed to grow up fast, to be responsible, to learn how to pay the bills and take care of things. Recognizing that her family needed support, Colleen’s mom signed up for grief support groups. Colleen shared that she didn’t connect with her group. Looking back, she isn’t sure if it was just the timing or the way the group was run, but she didn’t want to be there.
When they moved to Santa Cruz all that changed. At Hospice of Santa Cruz County, Colleen found a place where she could talk and connect with other kids. “We were given tools to process our feelings and opportunities for fun,” she says. “I loved the grief labyrinth.” In a way, Colleen learned how to be a kid again.
“My sister was young, so she didn’t have a ton of memories of our dad. Through others’ memories, the stories told so many times, they sort of become a part of you,” Colleen mused. Grief support groups do the same. “They offer opportunities to reinforce stories and celebrate the person who isn’t around. It makes them still feel present.”
“I wouldn’t have coped as well without Hospice of Santa Cruz County.
If I can help just one other kid feel more supported and help them
have a little easier time that would be a positive thing to come
from my struggle. My dad would love it.” — Colleen
In high school, and again during college, Colleen returned to Hospice of Santa Cruz County as a children’s grief support volunteer. A family affair, her mom also facilitated groups for widows. In one group, during circle time when each child was asked who they were remembering, Colleen began by sharing about her dad. A boy in the group, there with his older brother, looked at her in awe and said, “I’m seven. My dad died too.” Instantly, he was no longer alone. Those words have never left her.
Now, as a mom of two boys, Colleen works with a family foundation that recently gave a generous donation directed to our Youth Grief Support Program. “I wouldn’t have coped as well without Hospice of Santa Cruz County,” Colleen says. “If I can help just one other kid feel more supported and help them have a little easier time that would be a positive thing to come from my struggle. My dad would love it.”
Currently we offer virtual grief counseling sessions for youth ages 4-18.
We use play, writing, and movement as part of the counseling experience. If you’re interested in our Youth Grief Support Program please reach out to Amy Marlo, Youth Grief Support Manager at 831-430-3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.