A Comforting Place for Children to Cope

(Pictured from left to right: Grace Lynch and Heather Groff)

As the sun beat down on her face, suitcase in hand, Grace Lynch was taking her first step toward coping with the loss of her younger sister, Olivia Lynch, at Camp Chimaqua. And Grace wasn’t alone. Several children, just like her, were facing their grief that weekend head on. While Grace attended camp two years ago, it still has a memorable impact on her life…as it does for all campers.

“This was Grace’s first sleepover camp, which was exciting in and of itself,” commented Kelly Lynch, Grace’s mother. “One of her favorite memories was when she made a handmade boat, put a candle in when the sun had set, and gently pushed it out into a pool of water along with the other campers’ boats as a symbol of light and love to ‘show’ to their loved one who they were remembering.”

Offered through Hospice & Community Care’s Pathways Center for Grief & Loss, Camp Chimaqua is an overnight weekend camp for grieving children ages 6 through 12. The camp helps children explore their feelings, develop coping skills, and build self-confidence. Through group and individual activities, children learn how to express their feelings and share memories of their loved ones. Campers enjoy fun activities such as swimming and making s’mores around a campfire, as well as participating in grief related activities.

During camp, a trained adult buddy is paired with each child for companionship, support, and supervision throughout the weekend. “The bond between the buddies and campers is so memorable,” commented camp buddy, Heather Groff and Grace Lynch’s buddy. “To be with these children as their cheerleader, supporter, and protector while they’re expressing their feelings is so special. Though there are some tears shed during camp, the campers know they are not alone.”

“There were times when Grace felt shy and hesitant about participating in certain activities,” commented Kelly. “Her Camp Chimaqua buddy was wonderful and helped her to feel safe and supported while encouraging her, which very much helped Grace take one step at a time that weekend. Even years later, this has been an incredible memory for Grace.”

We all grieve differently. Yet, amid serious illness and death, children are often overlooked, and their needs are significant. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but it is important that children are given the support they need to mourn their loved one. If you know a child who is struggling with a loss, please consider having them join us from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2 at Gretna Glen Camp & Retreat Center, Lebanon. Children must attend an assessment to ensure that camp will best meet his or her needs.

For more information or to register, click here.