ProMedica Hospice Serving Northeastern Michigan recently held their children’s grief camp, Camp Healing Hearts, led by Susan Gentle, bereavement coordinator. The camp helps with addressing the grieving process with communal support and musical intervention, which has made a significant difference for children and their families who have experienced the death of a loved one.
Camp Healing Hearts offers a variety of activities, such as special arts and crafts like art journaling and musical activities. Other activities include calming bottles and memory boxes. These activities help the children cope with the anxieties associated with grief and be able to express their emotions and manage the grieving process in a safe environment. Corresponding adult grief sessions were also offered in addition to sessions for the children.
Philadelphia musician, and musical percussionist, Josh Robinson made an impact to the children at Camp Healing Hearts with a “Drum it Out!” workshop with the expressed purpose of teaching an alternative coping mechanism for managing grief. Josh’s musical excursion allowed camp participants to experience the power of musical reflection, which had given them the ability to mirror their own stories through song. He has spent the last 20 years using her percussive abilities to enrich the lives of those around him.
Camp Healing Hearts made an impact on the campers who were unsure of coming and opening up about the loss of their loved one. Addison, a camper, shared, “It was a lot more than what I expected. I didn’t think I would like it, but now that came I really like it.”
Another camper, Harper, shared, “I thought this would be really sad and wasn’t sure I wanted to attend, but it was fun, and I want to come back.”
Volunteers for Camp Healing Hearts come from local universities and the community. Volunteers act as buddies to the campers, and they help with activities and projects, such as crafting drums, and they also assist campers with creating arts and crafts.
Maddy, a volunteer, stated, “Volunteering for Camp Healing Hearts has been great because I was able to experience my own sense of grief management while helping my buddies. What I was surprised about was that I don’t think I really dealt with the death of my father, so this was good for me too. My buddy and I had a great positive experience. I think that camp showed the children how to have fun while experiencing their emotions around grief.”
A mother of one of the campers attended one of the adult sessions and said, “The death of a loved one is never something anybody ever thinks they will have to deal with. Then one day your whole life changes. The fact that there are resources available to us is just phenomenal. I felt safe sharing my feelings and received helpful ideas to process my feelings and those of my children. Love Camp Healing Hearts.”
Thanks to the ProMedica Hospice Memorial Fund and Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital, Camp Healing Hearts is free of charge. The Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region also assisted with volunteer support and activities.