FORT MYERS, Fla. — Valerie's House is resuming in-person grief groups.
Over the past 90 days, Valerie's House says over 60 children have joined its grief support program, including children who've lost family members to COVID-19.
The organization has been hosting virtual sessions since the start of the pandemic but says it's now time to welcome families back.
For kids and teenagers like Jason Bishop, Valerie's House provides a safe place for them to grieve the loss of a loved one.
"if I didn't come here, I'd probably have every emotion bottled up, and it wouldn't be pretty," said Jason.
Jason lost his dad in 2018, and recently his mom in a car accident — now he leans on Valerie's House in Fort Myers for support.
"My grandma kind of pushed me to come here, I wasn't really too excited about it in the beginning, but after I got with the first and second group I felt a lot more comfortable," said Jason.
For the past four months, the non-profit has been hosting its grief support groups virtually.
"When the pandemic first started, we knew right away we were going to have to close the physical doors because most of our group nights run 40 to 50 people," said Angela Melvin, CEO & Founder of Valerie's House.
But now, Melvin says it's time to welcome back their families for in-person group nights.
"Because they're in a pandemic, sometimes that stress, that isolation, that anxiety is heightened, which is why we know we need to reopen," said Melvin.
Valerie's House is resuming in-person sessions starting Monday, and it's making sure to do so safely.
"It will consist of wearing a face covering, we will be distanced, all of the rooms have been marked up to show where the kids will be sitting," said Melvin.
Valerie's House has also added additional nights for grief support to allow for social distancing and increased demand.
Staff will clean all surfaces each night with a deep cleaning weekly by a professional company.
"I can't wait to go face to face with all my friends in my group. I feel like this is my second home," said Jason.
Virtual groups will continue to be available for families seeking to continue meeting online.
Valerie's House is accepting appointments for families that wish to enroll.