Grief | St. Louis Public Radio


Children who lose a parent or a sibling make for a surprisingly large group: Researchers believe one in 14 kids in the U.S. will suffer such a devastating loss before they turn 18. Surviving parents or guardians may be left coping with their children’s grief even as they themselves deal with the loss.

Enter Annie’s Hope. Founded in 1997 as the St. Louis Bereavement Center for Young People, the organization seeks to help entire families in their mourning process. It hosts an annual camp, family support groups and other services for those who’ve suffered a loss. 

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, Becky Byrne, founder and executive director, discussed the organization’s work. She was joined by 10-year-old Riley Mitchell and his father, Brandon. When Riley was 4, his mother died suddenly. He was enrolled in a support group soon after, and at 6, began attending the Annie’s Hope camp. 

Tammy Riley poses for a photo with her granddaughter, Frankii, who never met her father.  Frank Sessions was shot and killed before she was born. (Sept. 28, 2019)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A portrait of Frank “Nitty” Sessions hangs on the wall at Nitty’s Salon 1 and Retail on Natural Bridge Road, high above the manicure station.

Tammy Riley’s daughter Tameya named the salon after her brother, who was shot and killed outside a north St. Louis bar in 2009. He was 24.

For Riley, her son’s photo is a constant reminder that his life was cut short. Superimposed on the image is a poem he wrote years earlier, “24 Things to Remember and One Thing to Never Forget.”

“Number 24 is, ‘Don’t ever forget, for even a day, just how much I do really love you,’” read his mother, though it’s clear she had the poem memorized.