Camp Hope Helps Families Handle Loss

Staff Writer

Coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, whether it be sudden or something that was prepared for, can be difficult for anyone. Dealing with the loss can be hard to understand, especially for younger individuals.

Hoping to help families cope and talk about the feelings they are experiencing after loss and teaching them ways to make it to the other side of grief was the focus of Camp Hope on Saturday.

Given it was the inaugural year for the event, approximately 10 people attended the event at Wayne Street United Methodist Church, where Bob Sweeney, pastoral counselor for Grand Lake Hospice, and volunteers manned stations where they helped children and adults understand the loss they were experience — whether it was recent or not.

Focusing on a family unit was something Sweeney said he had not seen before when it came to bereavement camps. Many, he said, focused on specific groups such as young children and teenagers and he wanted to bring families together to talk about what they were feeling.

“There’s a lot of cost involved with getting something like this going so I wanted to start small and get kids, teenagers, parents, grandparents, whoever has had loss, together and be able to have an experience where they can come in and talk about their grief no matter what kind of loss they’ve had,” Sweeney said. “… I wanted to be able to come in and talk about it but in a different kind of way.”

The main goal of the camp was to address the different aspects of grief and encourage forward moving thinking and positivity to help individuals get through the dark period.

“Not forgetting anything important in the past or the hurt but know that this is almost the other end of grief and that journey,” Sweeney explained of the lessons. “In order to get to these things sometimes it helps to have a little of encouragement and dialogue with others and to be around other people who have had some similar experiences.”

And he understands that getting the conversation started comes with challenges as not everyone wants to go out and talk about their feelings in regard to their grief.

“Not everybody gets excited to say, ‘hey, let’s talk about our grief,’” he said. “It’s a big reality and I think in our culture it’s something that everyone deals with but we don’t talk about a lot. So if this allows us to bring it out in a more positive way, other people see that and it might open the doors for others to be connected and touched by it in the future.”

Over the course of the four-hour event, the participants cycled through five stations: laugh, pray, reflect, relax and create. Sweeney said each has an important role in participants daily lives and while overcoming grief and each station was meant to teach them how to incorporate each word into their life after the loss of a loved one.

“Laughter is a hard one to find after you’ve had a death in your life but the only way to get to that point is to think back and reflect on the good fun times you had, thus the connection with the bouncy house,” he said.

The camp had a large bouncy house set up in the church parking lot for the laughter station because Sweeney said it is hard to get in a bouncy house and not experience laughter and joy. The bouncy house was meant to be an example of favorite memories individuals shared with their loved one — such as going to the zoo or other activities done together — and the station is meant to teach campgoers to hold onto those memories going forward.

“We understand where you are in terms of your recent loss but those old memories and all those experiences are what’s going to sustain you in the longterm and that’s what we want people to hold onto,” Sweeney said.

The one-day camp was free to the public with many sponsors to help cover the costs of the lunch and activities. Sweeney mentioned that everyone seemed to be enjoying the day and at the end, a bubble release was held to help people connect with their loved ones who had passed. Sweeney mentioned he had read somewhere that blowing bubbles was like blowing kisses which he felt would resonate well with those participating in the camp.