"Attending bereavement camp taught me that I am not alone in my grief. It showed me that any and all of my emotions were ok, no matter how big or small they were. Volunteering at bereavement camp taught me that I can learn the biggest life lessons from the smallest children. Bereavement camp is like being in a club that no one wants to join, but once you're in it, you can't image your life without it."
Sarah, Camper and Big Buddy Extraordinaire
"I grew up spending most days with my dad. He was my best friend. In 8th grade, my dad died from a heart attack. I was the first kid I knew who had lost a parent. When I started high school, I lost every friend I had because nobody could understand why I was sad all the time. Here I was starting high school and I was friendless, parentless, and depressed. I found out about grief camp and it was the first time, in a long time, that everything felt right in my life. I went to my first camp, just one year after my dad had died. My 14-year-old self had no idea how much that first weekend would mean to me and affect the rest of my life. It was the first time in a long time that I felt normal and that my feelings were validated. It was the first time people didn’t look at me weird and I could just be myself. It was the first time I ever felt like I wasn’t alone. Fast forward 12 years . . . my life has been indescribably affected by camp. It has connected me with hundreds of people, some who I consider my closest friends; friends who support me through all of life’s changes. It gave me other campers whose stories inspire me and look to me for guidance. It created an extended family for me when I lost mine. Bereavement camp saved my life and pulled me out of some sad and lonely places. It was the greatest decision I have made since losing my dad. If you are reading this, I urge you to try camp at least once. I urge you to volunteer and experience what an amazing weekend it could be."
Rachel, Camper and Big Buddy Extraordinaire
"I lost my dad in 6th grade to heart attack. It was both unexpected and expected all at the same time. He had been sick for a while, but then he was back to good health. Then he was just gone. In a blink of an eye I felt like I went from eleven years old to thirty. It was only my mom and I living together, no man of the house, and no one there to make us feel safe. I attended my first weekend long bereavement camp back in 2006 about 6 months after my father had died. Life changed for me once again. But this time it was for the better.
Here, I realized I wasn't alone. I had a place to grieve, and somewhere that made me feel like my story was important. My father became more than just a death. My father became someone I could remember not just with sadness, but also with a smile on my face. My father's death became a part of me not just in negative ways, but in positive ways. A bereavement camp taught me that my loss had purpose, and that I could use that purpose to help others going through all different hardships. I am beyond grateful I had an outlet like that to help me navigate through what is mostly a very difficult journey."
Niki, Camper and Enthusiastic Big Buddy
"I have volunteered in a bereavement program for over 10 years and have witnessed the remarkable changes that children, teenagers, and young adults have experienced from the first day of arrival to the last day of the program. The campers often feel connected to others who communicate about their loss and how they cope in their everyday lives."
Lucy, Compassionate Licensed Professional Counselor
"When I was in 5th grade, my father was killed in a plane crash and within the following seven months of losing him, I lost my three remaining grandparents. It was a year filled with loss and transition as I had just started middle school. My new friends had never met my dad, nor could they relate to anything I was going through. There were no bereavement camps when I was a kid, but fortunately, my mother was an amazing support and she had told me that ‘grief is a lifelong process’ which prepared me for the idea that there wasn’t going to be any definitive end to my grief.
Fast-forward almost two decades and I've had the opportunity to volunteer as a Big Buddy at bereavement camp. Being a Big Buddy is an amazing opportunity to connect with kids who feel lost, sad, confused and alone much like the way I did when I lost my dad, but also to be living proof that we can keep on living and we can be happy. As an adult, bereavement camp gave me an opportunity to use my perspectives and lessons learned along the way to help kids who were new to their losses. As a new mom, my losses from my youth have shown themselves to me in new ways, but grieving in a healthy way and being a part of a community at camp has helped me be prepared for these new emotions and how to handle them constructively.
Bereavement camp is not just a weekend of help, it sets you up for a lifetime of healthy grieving."
Michelle, Intuitive Big Buddy
“I went to camp in the late summer going into 8th grade. I was 13. My dad had taken his own life in January of the same year. I actually gained a great deal from camp. It didn't just feel like a camp for kids with dead parents, siblings, friends and loved ones. Camp made kids like me feel normal for a little while. I also learned to accept that grieving comes with time, and it isn't something that can be rushed. I am 21 now and will always think back on camp with fond memories.”
"I was introduced to a bereavement camp when I was 15 years old, after the passing of my sister. My mom tried convincing me to go, but me being a stubborn teen, I decided I didn’t need it. When I was 17 (the final year to be eligible as a camper) I decided to go and I really did regret not going the prior years. Not only did I love going to camp as a camper, but the bonds I built over the three-day camp made me return to become a “Big Buddy(volunteer).” It changed my life. It made me see that I’m not alone in the world of grief and that the healing circles (support groups) that you’re brought into make you a stronger person. The first day I was settling in and moving into the bunks, the second day I was getting acquainted with the group and making new friends and really opening up, and by the final day I didn’t want to leave. I made connections that will never go away, learned things about myself that helped me move forward with my grieving process and know that I will always have those friends to turn to whenever I need a helping hand in life."