Often, funerals or memorial services offer adults the opportunity to remember loved ones and to say goodbye, but they do not do the same for children, who are less able to connect with people at these services or to understand and fully experience the proceedings. Bereavement camps for kids offer a space for children to connect with other grieving children and to remember and say goodbye to loved ones.
Comfort Zone Bereavement Camp offers places across the country for children who have lost a parent, sibling, or caregiver to experience their grief and begin to heal. The non-profit camp is free to attend, and include things like confidence-building programs and age-based support groups. Through these programs, children ages 7-17 are able to share their grief and break free of the isolation that often comes with it.
Comfort Zone operates on the idea of “The Camp Bubble”, where no children are isolated or chastised for their experience. By spending time in a rustic camp environment kids are able to grieve outside of the world that had maybe forgotten them or can’t understand their grief, and to bond with others who have also experienced a deep loss.
The camp holds a memorial service where campers sing songs, read poetry, perform skits, and more in honor of loved ones. Parents are encouraged to attend, to allow them the opportunity to share this healing experience with their children.
Along with healing from grief, the camp offers children time to play, share their stories, and make friends, with a focus on increasing self-esteem and understanding their feelings. In times of grief, children in particular – who may not understand all that has happened and cannot comprehend the grief they are experiencing – need the kind of validation that bereavement camps like this offer, that what they are feeling is okay.
Throughout their stay at the camp, the kids meet in Healing Circles, small age-based groups led by licensed grief therapists where campers are encouraged to talk about their loss and listen to the stories of others. Throughout camp, kids are also given tools to cope with their grief outside of camp, coping skills and ways to connect with loved ones.
Aside from the expected grief counseling, the camp keeps a focus on fun for the kids, offering regular camp activities like team sports, hiking, arts and crafts, s’mores, camp songs, and games. The life lessons learned through the loss of a loved one can cause children to suddenly grow up too fast, becoming more somber and serious about life. It’s important for them to get back to being kids, to continue to have fun and enjoy life!