Hospice of Michigan to hold day camp for grieving children

Sign up by July 30 for free camp in Holly Aug. 28

By: Andy Kozlowski | C&G Newspapers | Published July 17, 2015

METRO DETROIT — Grieving the loss of a loved one can be a lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes connecting with others who have also experienced a loss can aid in the healing process.

That’s the idea behind Camp Good Grief, a free one-day camp for children who have lost someone near to them. Run by Hospice of Michigan, this year’s camp will be held Friday, Aug. 28, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at YMCA Camp Ohiyesa, 7300 Hickory Ridge Road in Holly. The camp is for kids ages 8-17.

Applications for Camp Good Grief are due Thursday, July 30. Space is limited, so those interested should sign up soon.

“Children love to be children — they love fun, games, the outdoors. So this is an opportunity to integrate that into their grieving,” said Karen Monts, director of the grief program at HOM. “It’s a safe place, but at the same time they’re in an atmosphere of healing, a place with other kids feeling the same. It’s no longer an isolated experience of being in a classroom feeling like they’re the only one who is sad. It’s nonjudgmental … and brings them, hopefully, into a comfort zone.”

Sometimes the distance can help one clear their head and unpack their thoughts, Monts said. A new setting can also help reframe their view. For someone grieving, it can be transformative.

“An essential task of grieving is the ability to remember and embrace memories, so when they come to camp, we encourage that with a remembrance activity,” Monts said. “When you can no longer connect with someone physically, you connect with the memory — the relationship translates into something new. For children, camp is about making new memories, as well — good memories.”

Trained volunteers and HOM grief professionals run the camp and provide ongoing support. The DTE Energy Fleet Strategy and Procurement Team is providing transportation, as well as backpacks filled with support items for each child.

The camp itself is located on Fish Lake, surrounded by 300 acres of groomed fields and natural woods for play. Its facilities and programs are accredited by the American Camp Association and licensed by the state of Michigan. Previously, the camp was located at Camp Newaygo near Big Rapids in western Michigan. The camp started in 2012. This year is the first change of location.

Campers will partake in a sharing circle, where they can talk about their loss and grief experiences and share memories of their loved ones. They’ll also work on a therapeutic remembrance craft such as a memory box, which they can personalize in memory of their loved ones.

According to Jackie Morris, grief support manager for the Detroit-Wayne area of HOM, the camp gets around the difficulty that kids sometimes feel when talking about grief.

“Kids are easily embarrassed, so they need a place to feel validated about their grief and to talk about their grief,” Morris said. “Generally, the kids — teens, especially — they don’t want to go at first, but their family makes them come, and once they’re here, they see the other kids and how they’ve also had losses, and the smiles come out as they talk about the feelings buried deep inside, and they have a good time.

“We start out with little icebreakers, and we play a lot of games. There are a lot of activities that focus on team-building skills,” Morris said. “Once, we did rock climbing. The kids encouraged each other and cheered each other on. The team-building helps kids understand that they need support and that they’re not alone.”

For more information on Camp Good Grief, including how to acquire an application, call Jackie Morris at (313) 578-6328. Applications are due July 30. The free one-day camp is Aug. 28.