Reflections on Camp HOPE

by Malarie Allen, Development Coordinator

One of my favorite books to read with my son is “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The book’s main character wakes up grumpy and every little aspect of the day seems to go wrong.

I didn’t see any “Alexanders” at our Camp HOPE last week. I saw many smiles and heard much laughter. This was especially wonderful knowing most of the children in attendance have had their own “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” days, even worse than any bad days I’ve personally experienced.

Camp HOPE is a one-day grief camp for all the children in the in-school bereavement program of Hospice of Marshall County – Shepherd’s Cove. These children from grades kindergarten through 12th go through the bereavement program after losing someone close to them, like a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle. They learn how to cope with the loss and grieve in a healthy way.

The children learn to use Tools of Expression, or TOEs, to release tension and express their emotions. The TOEs range from equine-assisted therapy, arts and crafts, and music to archery, yoga, canoeing, and other activities.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

This is more than just a day of fun away from school. The children learn invaluable lessons from each activity — lessons about change, accepting our feelings, and reaching out for help if we need it. The activities are all part of a unique curriculum created especially for Camp HOPE by our own bereavement coordinator, Stacey Johnson.

You see, hospice care is more than the physical care of patients who are dying. It is also about helping those left behind grieve and learn to embrace a new life without their loved one. To see a grieving child, knowing a bit of their innocence is lost to tragedy, is especially heartbreaking. Children are thought to be extra resilient and quick to bounce back from calamity. Perhaps this is why they are often called “the forgotten mourner.”

We at Hospice of Marshall County – Shepherd’s Cove, led by our social work team, want all grieving children in our community know they are not forgotten. Grief in some form may last a lifetime and very bad days may still come and go, but by learning healthy ways to cope, we hope these children can discover a new hope and a bright future after loss.