Friday, May 18, 2012

Send to Grief Camp or Not? That is the Question....

This has been an issue that's been weighing on me for a while.  Mainly because I feel like, when it comes to my children and their grief process...I think I've been doing a pretty good job as a mom.  We've counseled when we needed to, talked openly about what happened and how that's affected our lives, and honestly grown together into a family that I never thought we'd be ('cause we're missing one), but ultimately I'm proud of.

But now I'm facing a dilemma.

Both of my older children have attended a grief camp out here in Colorado called Camp Comfort.  I know that there are programs like it all over the country and from our experience...I can't say enough about it.  They accept kids 6-12 and for 2 days, each child has their own counselor who will be with them the entire time.  You kid wants to horseback ride?  Fine.  The counselor will take them.  Swim?  They'll get them suited up and in the pool.  Crafts?  They're standing by with the glue.

Camp Comfort allows the kids to play, but they also have activities to help the kids deal with their grief.  They can make memory jars or dolls that look like the person they've lost.  They bring pictures so they can talk about their loved one.  And if they don't feel like participating in those activities...that's okay.  Their counselor will bring them over to do something else.

Like I said, both of my older children have experienced Camp and loved it, mainly because they had a weekend to do what every kid dreams of doing.  I get the feeling with my two older children (because they were 5 and 3 when my husband died), that it was actually less about the grief activities and more about the fact that they got to do so many fun things.  I sent them both when they were old enough because I wanted them to be around other kids and talk to people other than me about what they were feeling.  And the weekend was a success.  For both of them.

Well, now my youngest is 6 and she wants to go.  Again...I think it is less about the loss of her dad and more about the fun activities.  And that's okay.  My problem is that I feel like my youngest is one of those children who might do I say this?...susceptible to other people's grief.  That is...she may not be grieving now, but once she gets around others whose grief is more fresh and raw...she may feel like she should be behaving the same way.  Whether the actual grief is there or not.

Believe me...I'm not ignoring her grief or trying to gloss over what could someday be a problem.  I realize that since she lost him so young (she was only 1), her grief may happen later or in ways that I'm not expecting.  But I do think that sending her right now could send us into a regression we might not have otherwise.

What do you think?

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

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