Published on June 15, 2018

Rituals Help Kids Heal at Grief Camp

Each summer, Alive hosts grief camps for kids and a teen retreat to help our youngest community members recover from loss. The camps give kids a safe place to bond with each other while grieving the death of someone important in their lives. 

Campers spend most of their time in small peer groups. Alive counselors use arts and crafts and fun activities to engage the kids while helping them develop grief coping skills. They are encouraged to share their stories and memories with one another.

“The kids experience profound healing just by connecting with other kids who understand what they are feeling. Year after year, the most rewarding aspect of camp for me is the connection that happens between these grieving kids,” says Pam Quaintance, Alive social worker and camp director.

The kids experience profound healing just by connecting with other kids who understand what they are feeling.

Rituals are one of the coping tools that bring relief to campers. Sacred time is set aside to remember while performing rituals together. In one popular practice, kids walk a spiral (like a labyrinth) while talking about their loved one. They may light a candle or place a stone when they reach the center. A butterfly release is the closing ritual at both camps. Each camper receives a live butterfly to release in honor of their special person. Children are encouraged to think of their loved one and imagine sending them a message with the butterfly.

Each year around 40-50 kids attend the camps. Any child who has experienced a significant loss, regardless of whether the person they are mourning received care from Alive Hospice, is welcome to participate. In fact, most of our campers are community referrals that come through the school systems. Tuition is paid by donations and grants. No child is turned away.

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