Grieving can be a lonely experience. Being with others who are grieving can reassure you that what you’re feeling is perfectly normal. Bereavement camps, seminars and retreats offer opportunities for you to connect with people who understand how to help you with your grief journey.
Run by professionals and volunteers, these camps are supported by grants and donations, making them available at little or no cost to families. Separate camps are conducted for adults and children to provide specialized grieving spaces.
Camps for children and teens
Losing a loved one can be especially tough for children, so finding resources tailored to their needs is essential. Camp time is often a mix of physical activities and social events such as swimming, hiking and games, which can relieve stress and help campers deal with the emotional struggles often associated with such a traumatic experience.
The following groups work to provide grieving children with a comfortable place to talk about their emotions and feel understood:
- Comfort Zone Camp is a nonprofit bereavement camp that brings together children who have lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. These free camps, which are held year-round across the country, include confidence-building programs and support groups for ages 7-17. Comfort Zone Camp also offers virtual camp programs.
- The Dougy Center provides a safe place for children, teens, young adults and their families to share their grieving experience through peer support groups, education and training. The center also provides extensive resources and support for those impacted by COVID-19.
- Eluna provides comfort, hope and healing to children of military families and hosts a free weekend-long experience of traditional camp activities combined with grief education and emotional support at Camp Erin. Eluna also offers resources and support related to COVID-19.
- Good Grief Camps, through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, pair young survivors with active-duty military and veteran mentors who understand the military and can help guide young survivors through their journey of grief. The camps are offered at different locations throughout the United States. TAPS also offers support and resources related to COVID-19.
- Snowball Express’ mission is to create hope and new memories for the children of deceased service members who died while serving our country since 9/11. In December, it brings children together from all over the world for an all-expenses-paid, five-day gala filled with activities such as sporting events, dances and amusement parks.
- Project Common Bond, a program of Tuesday’s Children, provides camps and retreats for teens and young adults, ages 15-20, who have lost a family member because of an act of terrorism. Each summer, new Project Common Bond participants attend a summer symposium focused on global leadership activities, peace building and negotiation, skill building, and collaborative and therapeutic arts, music, drama, movement and sports. Virtual events are also offered, as well as support and resources related to COVID-19.
- SOFWOLF is a nonprofit organization that offers a college and career outdoor leadership program for the teenagers of deceased Special Operations Forces community, which includes Air Force Commandos, Green Berets, Navy SEALS and Marine Special Operators. Each summer, students are flown out to Park City, Utah, where they participate in outdoor leadership, team-building activities, career mentoring, resume-building, community outreach and networking for internships.
Programs for adults
Retreats and seminars are available for adults as well. They connect survivors with other adults who have lost loved ones and teach them coping skills. Consult “The Days Ahead” resource for a full listing of support organizations.
You can also contact the Department of Veterans Affairs Bereavement Counseling at 202-461-6525 if you’re feeling overwhelmed by grief at any time.
Military OneSource consultants are available all day, every day by phone at 800-342-9647, or click here for overseas calling options. You may also benefit from Military OneSource’s confidential, non-medical counseling service, available face to face, online, through video chat or by phone.
Grief Camps During COVID-19
With the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic restrictions, many camps and resource centers now provide virtual support for those grieving in isolation. Contact the specific camp you want to attend to learn their current status (in-person or virtual).