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A grief journey shared

This past weekend, a community gathered together to provide a therapeutic grief camp for children and teens that experienced a death related loss.  In doing so, families were impacted as they witnessed firsthand how their children learned to express themselves and share feelings that they perhaps had been repressing during their grief journey.  And, as some campers even stated out loud, they learned that grief is “heavy” and that it is better to share the weight of the journey instead of trying to carry it all alone.

Every year, during this day camp and afterwards, as the camp director, I am inspired both by the kids who attend and the work that they put into expressing themselves, but also by the volunteers who attend rigorous training in preparation for a day that provides countless amounts of rewards.  It is an experience that once one participates in, it grabs their heart and validates feelings in a way that creates speechless moments or inspires some to open up and speak volumes to others about what they are currently going through and how it is making them feel.  Campers talk about how much they learned and how they want to come back next year and volunteers state the same thing, that they never knew how impactful a grief camp for kids could be, that they didn’t know what to fully expect, but now that they have seen it personally, it is something they wish to share with others and be a part of for years to come.

The thing that strikes me the most every year is how much kids actually know, even though they have been told they are too young to understand or perhaps they have been protected from family who are attempting to shield them from the worst of the pain.  However, the pain still exists and helping them stay in touch with their feelings and finding ways to help them cope and communicate with others is an essential part of the healing process.  As kids, they can be brutally honest and deeply insightful and most are able to talk about the death of their loved one with intimate details and even paint a picture of their feelings by just using their words.  How wonderful that they are so expressive and that they can take the hurt they are feeling inside, share it with others and have their feelings validated, knowing once again that what they are going through is shared by many and that things do get better over time, even if it feels like their world has been shattered into pieces.

Again, seeing these kids, their families and the volunteers as they come together to honor and celebrate loved ones is an amazing sight to see.  Supporting that many people truly does take a village and putting on an event as big as this one requires community support and the heart and passion of those who wish to support those who are grieving.  I cannot thank enough all of our sponsors, both public and private, because it is their spirit and generosity that helps ensure that there will always be a safe place for our children and their families to receive support during the most difficult times.  When the going gets tough, “the tough get going” and nowhere was that more evident than in observing a community coming together to serve those who simply needed our presence.