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Family 411: Helping children deal with grief

CINCINNATI (Sheila Gray) -- Sara Nesmith and her sisters can laugh now when they see pictures of their mother. But the laughs did always come easily when her mom was battling cancer.

"She was a fighter for 15 years," said Nesmith. "We knew it was going to take its toll."

Sara lost her mom, Vicky, four months before her high school graduation.

"The first day I went back to school after she died, nobody even talked to me."

She was surprised by how difficult it was for people to talk about her loss, so Sara decided she would do the talking. Her first time, at a Volleyball for the Cure event.

"It was amazing, because after the speech, people came up to me and told me how touching it was."

Sara found healing by sharing her mother's story. Other kids may find strength in creating something -- through art or music lessons, writing in a journal or physical activity like a new sport.

"Our role as adults is to help them find out what that is, and I think it's going to be different for everybody," said Victoria Ott, Executive Director of Fernside.

Ott directs a grief support center. She says kids need to know it's okay to express their grief in appropriate ways. But they may want to talk to someone other than their parents.

"Children who experience a death in their family, sometimes their parent isn't the person they want to talk to because they're afraid of upsetting them... because they're grieving, too," said Ott.

It may also help -- to help others.

"I love being able to inspire people when they're going through the same thing I was," said Nesmith.

Sara's scheduled to talk with more high school students this fall, and she's studying to be a teacher. She hopes to show people how to keep going, like her mom did for so many years.

"She never, never let the cancer keep her down, and that's what I want people to know," said Nesmith. "Even at the hardest times, you need to pick yourself up and know that life moves on."

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