By Angela Smith
This past February, I was looking around on TMOM for information about summer camps and trying to decide if my children would enjoy a sports, art, or lego camp. Little did I know, one month later, my father would pass away after a valiant six-year battle with cancer. In turn, I added another camp to their list, Camp Carousel. As a school psychologist with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools for the past 12 years, I have referred numerous families to this camp and the feedback has always been positive. As my father’s illness progressed and I worried about my children‘s reaction, I knew there would come a day when I would need this service for my own family.
Camp Carousel is a bereavement camp for children, teens, and adults designed to promote healthy mourning for death-related grief. Reasonably priced at $25 per participant, they hold their camps for one week each summer. The camp is a program of Hospice & Palliative CareCenter and is sponsored by Brenner Children’s Hospital. Camp Carousel’s focus is meeting the unique needs of grieving children and teens ages 6-17 as well as adults in the community.
As the campers deal with their grief, the counselors help them learn new ways to cope through creativity and fun. Using art and music therapy, writing, animal-assisted therapy, and a variety of other activities, Camp Carousel helps their participants learn new ways to process their grief and express and understand their feelings.
Another benefit of the camp for parents like me is that the counselors offer direction to parents on ways to better understand their child’s grief process. According to Donna Hampton, Director of Grief & Bereavement Services at Hospice & Palliative CareCenter, the camp provides the participants with many coping skills necessary to deal with all kinds of life’s stresses, not just those caused by a loss. This year, the theme for Camp Carousel is “Road Trip.” Ms. Hampton shared that the idea behind this year’s theme is that grief is a journey and along the way special things are lost and gained. The camp will allow the participants to explore all aspects of that journey.
Towards the end of my father’s life, I began to realize just how difficult his death would be for my children. To say the least, my children adored their grandfather. He was a mentor, friend, supporter, and fishing instructor to them. He was always the one cheering the loudest in the stands at their games. His death has left a void in all of our lives.
On Father’s Day, I took my children to his grave site to place flowers. As I looked over at my nine year old son quietly crying, I realized that this loss will indeed be a journey for him, one complete with bumps, twists, and curves. Appropriately this year’s camp’s theme, “Road Trip,” will help my son and daughter recognize that grief is a part of every journey, where along the way special things are lost and gained. I hope that Camp Carousel provides my children with an outlet for expressing their emotions and gives them the opportunity to develop the coping skills to deal with future losses.
For more information about the camp or to download an application visit www.hospicecarecenter.org.