Moments of Meaning at CampCare

Posted by Sheila Yousuf-Abramson, Midwest CareCenter Families with Children (FWC) Counselor and Camp Care Leader

Moments of Meaning at CampCare
Campers at CampCare this past summer.

CampCare is a grief support camp for children and teens who have lost a loved one. This past summer, campers experienced camp in very meaningful ways and created memories that they will carry with them always. These experiences have had a profound influence on our campers.

Our "service of remembrance" is a time where our campers get to reflect on their loss and what their loved ones meant to them. Each camper created artwork that represented their loved ones and their memories of that person. At the service, the campers had the opportunity to view one another's artwork and take the time to share in each other's loss and to support one another. Many of our campers return year after year because they are unable to express their feelings of grief at home or in school because they fear being looked at as different or are protecting their families from their feelings of grief and sadness. Camp is a place where they feel safe and supported. For each camper it was an opportunity to openly grieve the loss of their loved one amongst their own peers who understand what it is like to lose someone they love, without the fear of being judged. The campers are also provided a way to maintain a connection to their loved one. One camper said that the service was like, "having the chance to say hello and re-live some special moments with my grandpa." Another camper described the service as "very sad but helpful because once the sadness is out, you can let the happiness back in and think of the good memories."

Our oldest group participated in the high ropes, and learned how to overcome obstacles and recognize their strength and courage in dealing with difficulties both physical and emotional.

They learned positive self-talk strategies to help them through their grief and also ways to apply these strategies to their coping. Another group really loved learning "warrior breathing" in a martial arts session as a way to manage stress and help them to cope with their feelings.

Toward the end of camp, we took our oldest group to the lake and participated in a "let it go" activity. This group would soon be graduating from middle school or starting high school, both very important life transitions. We asked these campers to choose a rock and assign a feeling or a thought that had been holding them back or that they have been keeping inside. We encouraged them to focus their energy on transferring this thought into their rock and to throw it in the lake, to let go of it so they could start the new school year without this burden and instead carry with them all the new support, skills and coping strategies learned at camp. This was a very cathartic activity for the campers and many of them took multiple rocks. Some examples of things they let go of included, "drama," "anger," "sadness," "mean people," and "peer pressure."

One of the most rewarding things about leading CampCare is hearing how camp has helped the kids cope with their loss. Here are some things I was so proud and pleased to hear from them:

"Camp helped me calm down about my loss."

"I learned how to take deep breaths."

"Camp helped me learn strategies to help when I'm feeling down
about my loss."

"Camp made me feel happy."

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