South Florida Hospital News
Sunday September 22, 2019
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June 2008 - Volume 4 - Issue 12

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Camp Good Grief

Grieving children come together to work through their pain

When it comes to grieving the loss of a loved one, thereís no easy way to copeóespecially for a child. But Hospice by the Sea, which serves Palm Beach and Broward Counties, is hoping kids can learn to grieve in a healthy way at Camp Good Grief.

Founded in 1995, Camp Good Grief offers children who have lost a parent or loved one the chance to spend a weekend with professional therapists and bereavement counselors. Throughout the session, staffers help the children deal with their grief in a positive way. The campers take part in therapeutic activities such as journaling, music therapy, pet therapy and trust exercises.

But Camp Good Grief isnít a sad place. Campers are also encouraged to bond and heal over fun outdoor activities. The children take part in swimming, basketball, volleyball, arts and crafts and other traditional "camp" activities.

The campers also participate in a memorial service on Saturday night. The non-denominational ceremony takes place during a bonfire, and allows campers the chance to share their memories and let their emotions out.

Each activity is carefully planned and executed by a member of the Camp Good Grief staff. The staff members are all well qualified to tend to and care for the children. Counselors are often recruited from the marriage and family therapy graduate programs at Florida Atlantic University and NOVA. Additionally, nurses, social workers and specially trained volunteers donate their time to the cause.

Located in Palm Beach County, the wooded grounds of Camp Good Grief include 12 air-conditioned cabins, a large dining facility, trails, volleyball and basketball courts. And what Florida camp would be complete without a swimming pool?

Open to boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 13, Camp Good Grief runs twice a year, with a weekend long session in the fall and another in the spring. In May, campers, parents, counselors and staff meet for a bar-b-cue to reconnect and share their experiences.

Kimberly Neale, coordinator for Camp Good Grief, says the campís success comes from a number of elements. "The combination of children bonding with others who have experienced a significant loss, along with therapeutic activities which promote healing through recognition of their loss, and knowing that they are not the only ones who have suffered the loss of a loved one," help the children to work through their grief.

Parents and guardians of children attending the camp benefit from the programís support session. Saturday afternoon, while the campers are enjoying their activities, Hospice by the Sea hosts the session at their Boca Raton office. Run by a bereavement counselor, the session helps the adults cope with their own grief, while learning more about that of the children.

Camp Good Grief is offered free of charge and recruits campers from children and family health organizations and the school districts of Palm Beach and Broward Counties. Director of Psychosocial Services Melanie McMillion says that wonít change. "Hospice by the Sea is committed to continue Camp Good Grief for the children of Palm Beach and Broward County every year," she says. "This program is a core program we provide to our community." She says the campers themselves are proof the program works.

She says that Hospice by the Sea personnel are able to witness the childrenís progress at camp during various therapeutic activities, as well as read about it in their comments from post-camp surveyors. Among the comments, children said that they, "learned to deal with the pain" and that it was "good knowing Iím not the only one."

As for the guardians, they too reap the benefits of Camp Good Grief. In the words of one: "Itís ok to be sad once in a while."

For more information, contact the Hospice By The Sea Bereavement Department at (561) 416-5059 or (561) 416-5106, e-mail bereavement@hospice1.org or visit campgoodgrief.org.
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