Birmingham’s Amelia Center offers free grief counseling services for children and adults

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CBS42 Community) — The holiday season can be especially difficult if you are grieving the loss of a child, a parent or guardian. Although the center has been around for over 20 years, many do not know about the free grief counseling services the Amelia Center offers.

Birmingham is home to this unique therapy center for parents and children who have recently lost a loved one. The Amelia Center is a division of Children’s of Alabama.

We sat down with Barbara Hurst who shared how the Amelia Center helped her and her husband cope with the loss of their teenage daughter, Natalie after she was killed in a car accident in 2010.

“We will never forget her because she was our beautiful daughter. But when people talk about her, kind of like, ‘What would Natalie have done in the situation?’ or ‘What do you think Natalie would be now?’ It makes me happy, and I would never have thought I would ever say that. But it makes me happy,” said Hurst.

While the healing process will never ultimately end, the Hurst family has found the ability to bring happiness and laughter back into their lives with help from the grief counseling they have received from the Amelia Center.

“When I hear something like a client talk about being able eventually to laugh again, certainly there’s a sense of accomplishment. We’re not trying to move beyond the person who died. We’re trying to move beyond their death so that we can find a way of incorporating grief into our life and still find purpose and meaningfulness and joy,” said Executive Director, Robert Smith.

The center was created to help children deal with the loss of a family member as well as parents coping with the loss of a child. While most of their clients are adults, the center has several rooms aimed at helping children express their grief.

“We can shoot a basketball or we can play a game of some kind and in the context of a game you be amazed that (children) are so willing to talk,” Smith said.

Through play, Smith says it’s amazing how children will open up and never realize that they’re receiving counseling. In the grief cave, children can write messages to their loved ones, and see they are not alone in what they’re going through. The art room gives patients a different way to express their feelings. Whether it’s traditional counseling for adults or creative counseling for children, the goal is the same.

“We had hope. From pretty much our first session here, we had hope that our life was going to get better. It took a long, long time to get better, but we had hope. And that’s huge. Hope is a huge thing I will honestly say this, this, the Amelia Center saved our lives. It saved our lives. I don’t know where we would be if we didn’t have Robert and the Amelia Center because it truly did get us on a really good road to healing,” said Hurst.

You do not have to feel alone in your grief journey. Click here for information on how to book a session with a grief counselor.

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