At Hearts of Hope grief camp for kids we know we have a profound impact on grieving children. Our mission at the Children’s Grief Connection is to bring hope and healing to those children and that was more than evident throughout this past weekend as we gathered to greet a small but very traumatized group of children and teens who had their loved one die recently. At the Hearts of Hope camp there were several families struggling with suicide, one with a murder-suicide. There were six children grieving the loss of a brother and friend in a car accident. There were three teen boys coping with the suicide of their classmate and best friend. There were deaths from heart attacks and cancer, mothers, fathers, grandmothers – and there were grieving volunteers, adults who took their time, energy and courage to meet these children at the soft spot in our hearts that hurts most when our loved one dies, the spot where hope and healing starts.
We know it from the messages of hope and healing that were collected in our mascot Hope the Bear’s big white basket: “my hope is that nobody else dies in my family” “my hope is to have a good future” “my hope is that Thanksgiving and mom’s birthday will be wonderful” “my hope is to move on in life and stop using my mother’s death as an excuse to not try to be who I truly want to be.”
We know it from the Love and Anger wall with messages of love: “I miss your ‘magic’ kisses” and “you were the best – in the whole world” and messages of pain on the Anger Wall: “WHY? I loved you” “I hate what you did but I love you.” We know it in the candle lighting – in the darkened room, heart shaped candles ablaze – we share memories and say our goodbyes.
As the room lights up with the warm candle glow, we give permission for young and old alike to shed tears, to express pain, laughter, hope and love. Maybe it was the candlelighting, or the sharing circle just before, maybe it was in the questions the doctor and funeral director answered, or in the caring and concern her volunteer counselors provided. Whatever it was, a beautiful ten year old girl who had delighted everyone with her smile and her kindnesses shared with her counselors how much pain she was in. At her young age she had a plan to end her pain; she laid out in detail how she intended to end her young life because the emotional pain of her loss was too much for her tender heart to bear. With the help of Hearts of Hope she was able to write a letter to her mother about how she felt and what she’d planned. As frightening as this experience was for all of us involved, the hope lies in her being able to reach out and tell someone of her pain, her plan, knowing help was available to her. Because of her being at Hearts of Hope camp she and her mother will now be able to get the help they need in the days and months and years ahead; a life was saved.
At Hearts of Hope camp our anger is left behind, our love remains and our hopes are carried forward. It’s stories like hers that bring us hope…hope that our mission reaches more children and teens who hurt the way she did...