What will you be doing this weekend, the last three days of July?
I’ll be at Kara’s 9th edition of Camp Erin – our grief camp for kids and teens – serving my sixth year as a counselor for a group of 10 year old boys in the mighty Alder Cabin. I’ll be sharing this weekend with nearly 90 kids and over 40 adults – experiencing one of the most magical, powerful and healing three days of the year. I am as ‘fired up’ about this weekend as we’ll be in the sweltering 90 degree heat at Camp Arroyo where we host the camp.
But just what makes a camp where every child has suffered the death of a significant person in their life and every counselor serving them has their own significant loss so extraordinary and special? Isn’t the idea of a grief camp just sad??
While I can assure you that there will be a lot of tears, the camp isn’t characterized by sadness. Instead, the camp is defined by hope, healing, camaraderie and care. You see, each child attending is doing so with a ‘void in their heart’ – the size uniquely defined by the person who died. For some it’s a mom, for others a dad, or a brother or nana. And when these kids come together, they express deep and honest emotions, share priceless memories, enjoy challenging activities (rock wall climbing & zip-lining), receive and offer comfort and love to each other, and forge deep bonds. It’s the first time for most where they are not singled out or referred to as the ‘kid whose father died.’ By the end of the three days, the kids (and adult counselors) have a difficult time saying goodbye. The number one comment shared by our kids year after year is unquestionably, ‘this camp should be longer!’
On Tuesday, I was talking to a widowed mom who will be sending her three kids to camp. She shared with me that they were already packed and extremely excited about the weekend. The exact words were, “mom, we’re packed and jacked!” Hearing that instantly gave me goose bumps and moved my heart, further affirming the incredible healing power of our camp. And like her kids, I am ‘fired up’ to be sharing this special weekend with so many grieving kids – I can’t wait to serve!
I hope your weekend is as amazing as mine!
Kara Executive Director