Loss and grief can manifest in a myriad of emotions ranging from sadness and guilt to anger. The stress that comes with loss can be especially difficult for children, who may not have learned the coping skills needed to move past the pain.
Home Hospice of Grayson, Cooke and Fannin Counties will be helping children learn these coping skills when it holds its annual fall Camp Dragonfly retreat from Oct. 18-20 along Lake Texoma. The camping program will take up to 25 children ages eight through 12, on a trip to Camp Saints for a healing with others who are going through similar loss.
“For most of it, it is the loss of someone in their life,” Home Hospice Community Development Director Linda Jackson said. “It could be a parent, a grandparent or even an aunt or uncle. Some of the most painful losses are a sibling.”
Camp Dragonfly started about 11 years ago as an extension of Home Hospice’s family care. Traditionally, the program has held two camps each year, with the upcoming retreat representing the 22nd under the program.
Despite its focus on care for those at the end of their lives, the organization also provides grief counselling and other services for their families. However, officials with the organization said there were gaps in the region’s services.
“We saw a need, as a hospice care provider, for family service and care,” Jackson said. “But there wasn’t a lot in the region for kids.”
With most camps, there tends to be a trend or a theme in the kind of loss seen children who attend each year. In March, there were several children who had recently lost a father, and Jackson expects this theme to continue on into the upcoming camp.
“Kids, they are pretty much how you see them, where adults find ways to mask it,” Jackson said. “Kids are honest and honest about where the hurt is.”
While the emotions the children feel during grief can vary, the most common ones are anger accompanied by an inability to focus. These feelings can manifest in a child lashing out and showing disrespect or not wanting to participate in group activities.
Throughout the three-day weekend, the campers will go through a series of activities that will teach them different ways to channel or defuse those emotions. The campers will learn to write their thoughts and feelings into a journal and meditate through yoga exercises, Jackson said.
Other activities are aimed at getting the children to act together as a group through outdoor activities and trust exercises. Through this, the campers can learn that they aren’t the only ones who are going through similar emotions.
“The thing kids always say is, ‘I didn’t know there was someone else who felt the way I did’,” Jackson said.
Families have until Oct. 15 to fill out and return the application. Jackson said families must pay an initial $25 application fee, but all other expenses are covered though grants and other outside funding.