By Cynthia Flash
For the Auburn Reporter
At age 10, Jayza Duhon saw her grandfather Lee A. Ford every day. She and her parents lived with Ford and his wife Violet in their Auburn home and Jayza – their only grandchild – spent hours with him.
“She and my dad were very, very close,” recalled Jayza’s mother, D’Juna Duhon. “She would say, ‘Grandpa, I want to go to the store.’ She had $2 and got $30 worth of stuff and he paid for it. … When things were frustrating her, she knew she could go to grandpa and it would be OK. In her world, he could make anything OK and better.”
Then, completely unexpectedly on the day before Father’s Day in 2009, Ford died of endocarditis – an infection that attacked the inner lining of his heart. Jayza was devastated.
Duhon, fearing for her daughter’s well-being and seeking help, turned to Providence Hospice of Seattle for children’s grief counseling. It’s a free service available to anyone in King County who is dealing with the death of a loved one. It’s the only program that provides both individual and group support to children and teens.
“Our staff is honored to be given the opportunity to provide this level of grief support to kids and teens in our community,” said Beverly Goldsmith, grief counselor with Providence Hospice of Seattle. “We hope many more will be open to using our services in the future.”
On Thursday, Jayza and D’Juna will be featured in the fundraising video at Providence Hospice of Seattle’s Pediatric Luncheon, which will raise money to support children’s hospice and grief support services.
Duhon recalls the hospice counselor who came to the family’s home to work with Jayza and give her the tools she needed to work through her grief.
“I didn’t want to fall in with that, ‘oh, yeah, they’re just kids, they’re resilient, they’ll bounce back, they’ll be OK.’ I wanted to make sure she had age-appropriate support,” Duhon said.
Jayza also attended group counseling at Providence Hospice of Seattle’s offices in Seattle and attended Camp Erin-King County, a free weekend summer camp in Carnation for children and teens who have experienced the death of a loved one. Now, six years later, Jayza is a successful junior at Auburn Mountainview High School who is looking forward to attending college with hopes of becoming a doctor.
“She said the loss of her grandfather completely changed the direction in her life,” Duhon said.
Even though Jayza is a well-adjusted teen, she still turns to Providence Hospice of Seattle for support, said Duhon, who like her father did for 36 years, works at Boeing.
“About two years ago she came to me and asked if she could go back to Camp Erin. She came back as a teen. Part of it is being able to verbalize those emotions. It still hurts her. Through Providence Hospice and Camp Erin, it has really helped her be able to express how she feels about that loss.” Now Jayza wants to go back to Camp Erin as a volunteer.
Duhon herself had much to deal with after her father died. The family had bought a new home, she had to comfort her mother, who was widowed after a 56-year marriage, and her husband William was diagnosed with prostate cancer. She turned to Providence Hospice as well.
“They were a very good support system for me as a parent. They taught me how to not overstress things. It was very helpful.”
For more information about Providence Hospice’s pediatric grief support services and hospice care, go to www.providence.org/hospiceofseattle.
Cynthia Flash owns Flash Media Services, a media relations company. Providence Hospice of Seattle is her client.