CINCINNATI -- University of Cincinnati sophomore Logan Davis said she remembers the year after her father died as one filled with groups of grown-ups speaking over her 9-year-old head in hushed tones, unable or unwilling to address the topic head-on when speaking to a child.
Her loss was the same as theirs, but her age meant she struggled to understand it and they struggled to help her do so.
Enter Fernside Center for Grieving Children, a Cincinnati organization that helps children process the loss of their loved ones with the help of counselors and same-age peers. Fernside is one of the oldest and largest such organizations in the country, and it was the place Davis' family turned to help her through her father's death.
"I remember feeling so welcome, very calm, and everything that was done was really meaningful," Davis, now 19, said. "I still have some of the things I made here."
That's why she continues to volunteer at Fernside despite her busy schedule of honors classes and campus club meetings, she said. She and other volunteers help children ranging from 3-18 deal with their grief through group therapy sessions and activities.
"Loss affects all of us throughout our lifetime," Fernside executive director Vicky Ott said.
Davis volunteers with the youngest group of Fernside clients, which means she frequently leads activities focusing on arts and crafts.
"I remember making a pillow case to keep the nightmares away," she said. "You would write fun memories you had with your loved one and things to remind you of them. After coming to Fernside, I felt I could process the loss in a clearer way."
Each family experiences loss differently, as does every child. Davis said she feels a responsibility to help children who are in the same position she once was: Confused, scared and in need of a guide through a life-changing experience.
"Some of them don't understand what's going on, but they may notice things around them, and it's really important to give them structure," she said. "For my perspective, it allows me to prioritize the important things in my life and say, ‘These problems I've dealt with aren't important today. Let's focus on these kids.'"