Living through the seasons of grief.
The return address read, Camp Agape. As I opened the small package, my heart filled with tenderness for some extraordinary mourners ~ children. Last summer I volunteered at a weekend bereavement camp for children. The picture in my hand today captured the faces of about 35 children, ages 7-12 who came together for 4 days of grief support designed especially for their young broken hearts. The experience was life changing for all. Even now, I pray frequently for my two little “buddies” – ten year olds –one who watched her father die during a heart attack, the other who said good bye to her best friend who died just days after a serious ATV accident. These brave girls worked on their grief. They were relieved to feel their feelings and know they were validated. They were encouraged by knowing every other child at the camp carried a broken heart also. These kids also played hard. When given the safe environment, a child is well equipped to grieve when the hurt overtakes them and return to play when the surging wave subsides. The risk for the child is that they become the invisible mourner. Just like adults, their grief can express itself in anger, denial, tears, depression, withdrawal, eating disorders, sadness, loss of focus, fear, bitterness, regrets, and guilt. Guilt was one feeling/thought process that these young ones struggled with across the board. As I interacted with them, I could only pray that my support and shared understanding was really helping them let go of their guilt. I longed for them to be guilt free through their grieving process. Their regrets, and could-of, would-of, should-ofs were real to them and needed to be processed with the assurance of forgiveness and truth to set them free. Please remember the child mourner. He or she needs caring and understanding adults who will validate their experience, honor their grief, and support them in the healing process.