It is always amazing when you are able to turn a dream into a reality. That is exactly what we did earlier this month when we hosted the first ever Grief Support Session at Hermann Sons Life Camp. I am still on cloud nine from the session because it was more perfect than we ever could have imagined.
I remember sitting in Kim Krueger’s office one day before Camp started last summer and her telling me about the focused service cause that was going to be a part of our organization and the possibility of us hosting a Grief Support Session at Camp. At the time I thought we might be a little crazy, but now I am so thankful that we took that chance and did something so amazing for our members and those in our communities.
Starting in October we began the process of planning the session with the assistance of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas that is located in San Antonio. There is no way this session would have been possible without their insight and guidance since they have done grief sessions in the past. Emily, the camp intern, and Tami, director of programs, and I met many times to prepare and make plans for the session. We knew we had the Camp part of the session figured out, but it was so nice to get their input from a therapist’s perspective.
I had high expectations for the session and knew that we had a genuine opportunity to play a huge role in the grief journey of the 40 campers who were coming for the session, but little did I know how amazing the session would be. From the time the campers arrived at Camp to when they departed after our family picnic, it was just magical.
The most amazing thing about the session was that the campers simply had the opportunity to be children. Many of the campers had to grow up overnight once their loved one died, but Camp gave them the opportunity to simply be a kid again, even if it was only for a few days. Just to see the joy in their faces while they were playing warmed your heart.
Sometimes it can be difficult to talk about the special person that died because of the feelings and emotions that are associated with that. During the Grief Support Session, campers participated in two healing circles each day that were led by staff and volunteers from the Children’s Bereavement Center. For some of the campers this was really the first time they were around someone else who had experienced the same type of loss as them. In healing circles they spent a lot of time talking about feelings, how grief is a journey, and also some coping skills they can use in their everyday lives. They were able to form true bonds with their healing circles and I know those individuals are people the campers will remember forever.
One of my favorite things about our session was the family picnic we had on Saturday at the conclusion of the session. When we first started to plan the session, one of the things we knew we wanted to do was include the families of our campers and celebrate their accomplishments throughout the week. One of the most powerful things that happened during closing was everyone standing in a semi-circle around the photos of everyone’s special person and the campers getting their photo back and sharing it with their family. That moment that we took to recognize everyone’s special person was powerful. Following that, we invited families out to our amphitheater where we planted a tree in remembrance of the session and it is something we plan to do for every session in the future. Campers had an opportunity to paint a rock that we placed at the base of the tree and it will be at Camp now forever. If you are at the Hilltop site anytime soon we invite you to come and see the tree.
I am already looking forward to planning our session for next summer. Because of the generosity of our members and the many volunteers who made the session possible, we have started a tradition of something amazing for our communities. I cannot even begin to really put into words just how powerful and beneficial this session is for the young people that we love. I am so grateful to be a part of Hermann Sons Life and the decision we made to focus on Grief Support Services.
If you haven’t had a chance yet I encourage you to take a look at the video that Alex Eads put together that recaps just a few of the things we did during the session. The song in the video is by one of the campers from the session, Morgan Steubing.