Bereavement Camps: An Opportunity to Grieve and Heal

Grieving can be a very lonely experience. The pain may feel intense and overwhelming, making you feel that you are losing your mind. Being with others who are grieving may give you the assurance that what you are feeling is actually normal. There are bereavement camps available for little or no cost for adults, children and teens, facilitated by grief professionals and trained volunteers. Most of the camps are held on weekends, with traditional camp activities, along with grief education and emotional support.

Bereavement camps, seminars and retreats can offer relief and the opportunity to tell your story, express your feelings, add resources and tools to your rucksack, and make long-lasting friendships with those who understand.

Bereavement camps for children and teens

Children and teens grieve differently than adults. Many times they may find themselves as the only one at school having lost a significant loved one. At an age when children or teens are trying to fit in with their peers, their grief may make them feel alone and different. Bereavement camps, also called grief camps, offer children and teens the opportunity to grieve in a "safe" place. At camp, they can talk openly about their loss and connect with other children who have lost a loved one and understand what they are going through.

Many of the child and teen bereavement camps are offered over weekends throughout the year. Depending on the program, the weekend may include grief sessions that encourage children to share their experiences and their memories in an age-appropriate way. Although the sessions can be intense, they are interspersed with fun activities and social events, which can help relieve some of the powerful emotions. Physical activity, in the form of games, swimming, hiking and sports, may also serve as an outlet for some of the stress these children often experience.

Because many of the camps are supported by donations and grants, they may be offered at little or no cost to the families. To find out more about camps designed specifically for children grieving the loss of a loved one who died in military service, visit the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Their Good Grief Camps are offered at different locations throughout the United States. Other camps, such as Comfort Zone Camp or Camp Erin, are nonprofit programs available to children who are grieving a significant loss.

Bereavement camps can help children connect with others who understand their loss. They create an environment where they can feel accepted, learn healthy ways to grieve and honor their deceased loved one. Some camps may even allow the child or teen to attend camp annually through age 17, as grief changes as they grow into adults.

Programs for adults

Like children and teens, adults may find solace in sharing their experiences with those who can truly understand what they are feeling. Retreats and seminars designed specifically for adults focus on connecting those who have lost loved ones and providing skills that may help them learn to cope with their sadness. The programs often have a different meaning for each participant, depending on where the participant is in his or her own personal journey. But many of those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find comfort in spending time with others who have experienced a similar loss.

The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors offers adult seminars and retreats in addition to their Good Grief Camps. The adult programs use different methods for reaching out to those who are grieving. But, like the child and teen programs, they are designed to create an environment where those who are suffering a loss can find support. With an Internet search, you may find other nonprofit organizations in your area that offer free retreats, camps, seminars or other programs for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Remember, it's important to reach out for help if you feel overwhelmed by grief. Military OneSource has consultants available by telephone at 800-342-9647 or email all day, every day. You may also benefit from the Military OneSource confidential non-medical counseling service, which is available face to face, online or over the phone.



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