Courageous Camping

red heart _ camp

On Saturday morning I woke up after a restless night of sleeping… I guess that phrase is a bit of an oxymoron… restless… sleeping… hmm…

I had a tough night sleeping Friday night because the mattress of my bed was hard and the water pipes did a little clanking routine every twenty minutes or so.  I was at camp for the weekend so I guess having a bed and being warmed by a noisy radiator was a blessing in comparison to being on the hard ground… in a tent… with temps in the 30’s (fahrenheit).  So I woke up with an achy back and tired eyes… but I knew I could drink a little coffee to wake up and take a couple of over-the-counter pain meds and my pain would go away… but that was not the case for the majority of the campers that I was spending the weekend with…

The camp I was attending is a camp for grieving children (and their families).   A camp to help deal with the death of someone they loved deeply… maybe their sibling… or their mommy… or their daddy… a camp that allows the families to grieve and take some steps forward in their emotional healing process. Their tiredness is an exhaustion that a little caffeine will not impact… and the pain they are experiencing cannot be taken away with a little Ibuprofen or Extra Strength Tylenol for there will always be an ache deep in their hearts…

This is the second time I have attended camp as a volunteer and this camp, like the last one, left me feeling very humble to be in the presence of such courageous men, women and children.  When the families walk in on Friday evening, they look tired, nervous and even a bit fearful… they don’t really know what the weekend will bring… all they know is that this is a weekend  focused on dealing with the emotional pain from having their loved one die… I’d say that is true courage – wouldn’t you?

The Hearts of Hope camp was born from the vision of a few funeral home directors who wanted to do something for the children to help them through the grieving process after the funeral ceremony was all said and done… to help them find ways to begin to heal that emotional pain that they are left with when someone they love dies.  The camp transitioned from focusing on the kids to focusing on the family – allowing adults to process their grief with other adults and the kids to work through their emotions with other kids who are dealing with the same issues.

Our weekend was fully loaded with activities… and fully loaded with tears, laughter, hugs and physical movement.  Memory books and boxes were made… t-shirts were tie-dyed…cookies were eaten… eggs were thrown… songs were sung… skits were performed… candles were lit… and balloons were released into the sky.  Where the little kids were tentative and struggling with leaving Mom or Dad’s lap, or the teenagers were quiet and uncommunicative on Friday night…,  they transitioned in two short days to being vibrant, smiling and energetic (as did their adult family members too).

Yes,  I am honored and humbled to have spent this weekend witnessing true bravery…

If you are interested in learning more about the Hearts of Hope camp and the Children’s Grief Connection visit  The model that is used is truly powerful and incredibly life changing (for both campers and volunteers alike).

“Courage comes in different forms. There’s strength–that’s the muscle. But love’s the heart. When you put them together, you can do anything.” 
~Nora Roberts

Do you know of any other organizations that focus on helping children deal with grief?  What type of activities are utilized?

4 thoughts on “Courageous Camping

  1. I love your blog. Nicely written. The world is a better place with people who care enough to care about others who are in pain, Sometimes grief will restrict you and thats a awful feeling. Thank you for opening up your heart and arms and helping untangle the feelings of grief.. Takes special people to be able to do what you do. Everyone has a calling and I do believe you have found yours Pat, Thank you again.

  2. You are right Teresa, I have found my calling…always knew it was there but didn’t know how to tap into it in the best way. My calling is to serve those who are struggling with grief, struggling with death and dying, or just struggling to find the life they are desperately wanting to have. The people I have been meeting over these past two years are incredible human beings always sharing and contributing…pretty awesome my friend!

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