Friday, March 23, 2012

Comfort Zone Camp: Grieve. Heal. Grow


A few weeks ago Margaret attended a bereavement camp for kids aged 7-17 who have lost a sibling, parent, or primary caregiver.

Getting her there was quite a production, a story of epic proportions. If you want to hear about all of the yelling, screaming and crying (and that's just the grown-ups I'm talking about) I'll have to work up to that in another post. Let's just say I just might have yelled, "Satan, you CANNOT have this family!" as we endured the road trip from hell. Since the closest I usually come to talking about the evil one has been discussng Voldemort, I think you get the idea of just how bad things were.

The good news is that the camp was wonderful!

Comfort Zone Camp is a safe, fun place for grieving kids. Campers attend Camp for free and can go back once a year until age 17. This is especially valuable as they mature and their needs change. Each camper is assigned a "Big Buddy"-- a caring adult who will be with him or her throughout every aspect of the weekend. Kids are placed in groups (Healing Circles) according to age, and each small group is facilitated by a licensed therapist. Most of the helpers at camp have experienced a significant loss in their lives, so they can really relate to the kids' pain.

Kids discuss their individual stories, coping strategies that do and don't work for them, and they talk about their loved ones who died. They also play games, laugh, have a camp fire, and do outdoor activities like canoeing. I cannot overstate how good it is for these kids to have a place where they feel NORMAL and understood. The camp helps "break the emotional isolation grief often brings."

At the end of the weekend, the Healing Circle leaders share with the parents how the weekend went and how we can best help our kids as they grieve.

I am writing about Comfort Zone Camp today in the hope that if you know a child who would benefit from this kind of experience, even if the loss was years ago, you will pass along the info. Camps are now in 4 states, but kids travel from all over the country to attend.

And, if you feel like supporting this amazing organization either through a donation or by volunteering, you'll consider that, too.

We are so grateful Margaret had the chance to attend.

48 comments:

Kirsten said...

This is wonderful Anna. I could have benefited from something like this after my father died when I was eight. SO thankful Margaret had this experience.

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

That's great Anna! Sounds like a really positive experience for Margaret. She looks so much like Jack in that photo. And her beautiful smile is priceless!

Elisa @ What the Vita said...

What a great camp - I agree with Kirsten, I would've benefited from this when I lost my dad at age 11. I'm glad it was a great experience for Margaret! She's so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

At risk of you thinking I am a stranger in cyberspace who lost her marbles, I may not know you, but I think Jack worked his magic from above. I am going through a hard time with loved ones ill and a recent bad fight with my husband among other things. As I was watching that beautiful video for the second time my husband called from a work trip and was the sweet and loving man I have known him to be-the person I married who seemed to have changed or so I thought. I went downstairs as soon as I got off the phone and my son out of the blue hugged me and said so many lovely things that NEVER come out of his mouth-just not his style to say those things.

So anyway..I may be nuts, but on a different note, that camp sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing so much about your life. You are helping so many people including me.

Happy birthday Jack...and thank you!

Ross said...

That's the attitude. Satan can't have your family! God bless!

MaryG said...

Wow. How wonderful. Like a couple of others have said, something like this would have made a huge difference in my life after I lost my dad (age 9). I'm so glad that Margaret had this opportunity and thank you for bringing the camp to our attention, I am planning to make a donation as soon as I can.

Sharon said...

I'm so glad you posted about Margaret. I've been wondering how she has been doing. You are such great parents to let her go. I'm sure it was so hard to let her be away from you for an entire weekend. I'm praying for peace and healing for you, Tim and Margaret. God Bless.

NanaDiana said...

What a wonderful outlet for the kids to be able to be understood and share what they are feeling. Blessngs- xo Diana

LauraBeth said...

What a wonderful opportunity for Margaret! Because she and Christie are the same age, Margaret is always in my prayers. Respecting her her privacy, but so glad to get a little update.

Sending more love, hugs, and prayers from the other side of town

geri said...

wonderful. being with other kids who have shared a similar experience, knowing she isn't the only one who has lost a beloved brother, yes, wonderful, healing. so glad that after all the fussing, it turned out to be a great thing.

Anonymous said...

And, I could have benefited from this at age 30 when I lost my Dad or age 58 when I lost my Mom. Grief is such a powerful, never ending, changing emotion. I don't know how any of us understands it or accepts it but somehow we do. How wonderful this camp must have been. .. just to know people understand what you are feeling.. so powerful and healing and accepting

ella said...

I love this. I love that Margaret was able to spend a weekend with others who have an idea of the pain she's feeling, I love that she was able to talk openly without feeling out of place, and I love that she has caring parents who are doing everything in their power to help her heal.

Anonymous said...

My brother served on the board of directors at CZC for several years. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about it. So glad Margaret's experience was good.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful opportunity. I'm so glad she got to take advantage of it. I hope it was helpful for her...and I wish something similar existed for moms and dads.

Anonymous said...

I have friends who have worked at Comfort Zone, some as therapists and one as a facilitator (maybe one of the Buddies). The one who was a facilitator lost her dad as an adult and found it to be an amazing experience for her, too! So glad Margaret got to go, and that you are being so proactive in facing grief directly. Keep up the good work. I know it must be exhausting.
Thinking of you every day,
Beth

mgh said...

As you know, in my own little world I have been learning how to parent with the help of professionals who have much more experience with how to navigate things that I never before imagined.
I get the kind of screaming and crying and fear that makes you want to hang on to the 'old' even as it has you yelling at Satan.
I love you. Hang in there. Love the photo :)

Anonymous said...

sounds like a very cool place. I'm glad there are good people in this world to look out for these little guys.

Stimey said...

This sounds like a fantastic place for Margaret. When I think of things that might have helped me after my father died when I was 7, something like this would have been amazing and profound. You are doing such good things for Margaret. Love to you all.

Anonymous said...

i love this place too! the one emotion of "relief", if just for a weekend, is a gift. what they take away will be long lasting. so glad you found CZC for your sweet daughter.

K A B L O O E Y said...

How marvelous. Margaret's smile in that picture was surely worth the drive from hell, I bet. What a blessing this camp and community will be to her in the coming years. I hope she made many new friends who understand what she's going through. And thanks for sharing the information -- I'm sure you will be helping others just by mentioning this remarkable place.

Anonymous said...

I love M. And I want her to heal and to grieve in a healthy way. And I want her to laugh and grow and know no guilt for being a survivor. And I want her to know that she is God's child. And she is loved by her parents. And that others know her story and care about her well-being.

Anonymous said...

Margaret is really beautiful. I think of her often. I am not a mother; but I am a sister. She is going to be one strong woman. xxxxxx

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I think you need to tell the story about the trip there. It's a good one. And it makes the success story of the camp even more wonderful. After all that...

Love you Anna!

mariann said...

Love, love, love the photo of Margaret!!!! She is beautiful and glowing!!!! Thank you for sharing about CZC -- they will go on on my list with Samaritan's Purse! And, yes, I want to hear 'the rest of the story' -- do you have any idea how you are able to 'normalize' the happenings in my own home (and minivan) that I think are such aberrations and then I come here and read what you have written, and I realize that our family is rather (it's a relative term) typical. Much love to you for this. Thoughts and prayers to your beautiful family! Madison's birthday is wednesday -- she and Jack were the youngest boy and youngest girl in their class (in 4th grade?) -- she keeps telling me this over and over so I know she is thinking about it. We are out looking at houses today -- our house went under contract this week. Love -- Mariann

Emily Elizabeth Stone said...

Shared the link to this at stonewritten.com I hope more people read this. The last few weeks has seen a lot of loss in our community. I shared this camp on my fb page. Thank you.

doseofreality said...

Off to donate right now. Thank you for sharing this information. I think that it sounds like the perfect place and as someone who is still reeling from the grief of losing my own mother last year (as an adult), I can only imagine how helpful it would be for a child.

Stacy said...

I too have friends who volunteer at Comfort Zone, one is the Therapist and the other has been a Big Buddy for going on ten years now. They both love that Camp so much and the impact it has on the families they work with. I'm so glad Margaret went and that it was a positive experience!

Meredith Self said...

Yay, Donaldsons.

Donated. xo

Claire Plante said...

So glad to hear that Margaret attended Comfort Zone Camp and that it was such a positive experience. I have other friends who attended a few weeks ago and they had nothing but great things to say about it. They felt it was really transformative for all of them in their grieving journey (their son died shortly after Jack), but especially for their daughter, also a fifth grader.

The kids and I continue to pray for all of you and send love and peace your way.

Love,
Claire P.

Kari said...

This post brought me to tears, just knowing there is a camp like this out there for kids - so wonderful. I wish I had a chance to go somewhere like this after my Dad died when I was eleven. I will be a supporter for sure!

Blessings to you.

luv2run said...

What a sweet smile!!!!

luv2run

Rach said...

I'm so glad Margaret had an opportunity to be with other children her age who have experienced something similar.

I desperately wish Lily had been older when we lost Hannah--she was only 19 months old. She has barely any memories of her big sister and it breaks my heart. But, the flip side of it is, she hasn't grieved the way Brien and I have, and for that, I'm grateful.

I'm still praying for you guys.

Hugs,
Rach

Lesley T. said...

My friend was a volunteer for CZC and spearheaded a fundraiser for the camp last year. I knew I had to help somehow once I learned what CZC provides for grieving children and families. I love, love, love CZC!

It's so wonderful to know that Margaret was able to meet children and adults who understand living with loss and grief. What a comfort to know that you're not alone even when it feels like you are.

Anonymous said...

Margaret is so beautiful. I hope she found comfort and friendship during her experience at camp. I think about your family often and pray you feel God's love and find peace.

brunette&blondie said...

I am sure it was a great experience for her! And a safe place is exactly what she needs right now. Poor sweet girl must be going through so much.
She's lovely.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

My daughter is in an eating disorder treatment program and I see what enormous benefits there are to group therapy with people who have the same problems you do.

I can imagine it is the same healing experience for a bereavement group. It sounds like it was well worth the struggle to get there.

Lisa said...

That camp sounds wonderful...too bad there are so few available, as they would help so many children. I am glad that Margaret had the opportunity to go. Prayers and hugs...

Princess Kate said...

Sounds like an absolutely wonderful camp. Such a blessing that she was able to attend and be with people in similar situations. Prayers and warm comfort always coming your way from me.

Leah C said...

How wonderful to know there is a place like this for kids. Hope it helped Margaret do some healing. Hugs and prayers...

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Thank you so much for sharing this important information. I am so glad you found this for Margaret to attend. Being around other children also grieving should have so many benefits for healing.

The Lamfers said...

Wish we lived somewhere even remotely close so that my girls could attend the camp. So glad that your daughter was able to go!

Pamela said...

Oh Anna, I'm so glad to hear that it may have been a positive experience for Margaret. I've been praying so.

Anonymous said...

It makes me feel so happy to know that there is such a place as the Comfort Zone Camp. I had no idea. I am also so happy that Margaret was able to go there. I hope she does for years to come. I must confess that I too hope that you will tell the story of the getting there. I have the feeling it will be so awful that it just ends up being funny.

love,
jbhat

The Empress said...

I can't think of a more worthwile place.

How I could have used this when I was a little girl, and my father died suddenly in the beginning of first grade.

Mama Mary said...

I've heard & read a lot about Comfort Zone Camp via my research on grief and I am so glad Margaret has gotten something from it. Continued love and light sent your way!

Anonymous said...

I was so moved by the idea that a camp like this exists, and that it helped Margaret, that I clicked on the website to see if there's a location in California where I can volunteer.

There is. In the not-so-big suburb of where I live. Not a coincidence.

So I thought you might like to know that I will be supporting this organization in Jack's memory. The ripples of your love and grace are reaching clear across the country to the Left Coast.

Thinking of your family and holding you in prayer.

Ann Imig said...

I'm so glad Margaret got a chance to feel "normal" and understood amongst kids her own age.

ster said...

I had no idea that even existed, and it's brilliant! I will support it financially for as long as i can. what a WONDERFUL and AMAZING camp!