Annual Camp Emily to be held October 10
(Fergus Falls, MN)
Having someone close to us die is painful, but to a child the loss can be especially difficult. Trying to process the loss and grief while witnessing those around them grieving too, can leave a child feeling isolated and alone.
In an effort to support grieving children and their families, Camp Emily was developed through the bereavement program of Lakeland Hospice. This special day camp is designed for children ages 7-18 and their loved ones who have experienced the death of someone they love.
Camp Emily was started by Lakeland Hospice Foundation in 2007. Emily’s family wanted something special to remember her by, something that would spread some of the love that she had known during her short life.
This year’s Camp Emily will be held on Saturday, October 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Eisenhower Complex where the offices of Lakeland Hospice are located at 805 East Channing Avenue in Fergus Falls, MN.
Participants are often from the surrounding area, but have come from as far away as Winnipeg, Manitoba and South Dakota. Thanks to generous donations from area sponsors, there is no charge to participate in Camp Emily and children and their families are invited back year after year.
Losing a parent, sibling, grandparent, relative, friend or classmate, can leave a child grasping for how to cope with intense feelings and profound loss. Parents or guardians accompany the youth for the day, participating in the experience and learning more about their own grief in the process.
“I found it hard to help my grandchildren and adult children with their grief when I was grieving, too. Camp Emily brings us together to learn how to express our grief and provide tools to heal. Being with others in a similar situation is reassuring and comforting,” explained Dianne Herman, grandmother of Emily Johnson.
According to Bonnie Wallin, LSW, Bereavement Coordinator at Lakeland Hospice, “Camp Emily is a day of healing and connecting with others, giving opportunities for grieving families to feel less isolated and to connect with others who are on a similar journey.”
Each year trained facilitators are brought on board bringing expertise in the fields of grief counseling and personal loss. Bereavement social workers meet throughout the year in preparation for the activities and events of this special one-day event. Because of the complexity of the situations, whether multiple losses, or the death of a parent or sibling, the professionals need to be prepared to help on a one-to-one basis, the children and families who are struggling with their grief.
The day opens with a candle lighting ceremony in remembrance of Emily. Throughout the day, grief education and support along with age appropriate activities are incorporated and attendees are invited to share their feelings. Participants have the opportunity to express themselves through creative arts,
“It’s a great day for healing and connecting with others who have lost loved ones. It’s nice to watch the kids’ transformation throughout the day as they become more comfortable with their groups and start making friends with others with their same struggles,” added Lynn Johnson, Emily’s mother.
The day ends with a balloon release for the group with a thought or message floating up in the sky, reminding each person that their loved one lives on in the memories and hearts of the survivors.
Children’s responses to having been at Camp Emily include, “I feel happier knowing others feel the same as I do by talking about my loved ones.”
”I don’t feel so alone and sad when I talk about my feelings with the other kids. I found out they feel the same way I do.”
”I learned it’s better to talk to somebody than not to.”
Registration for Camp Emily is open until October 5, 2015 and is free of charge. To sign up or find out more information simply call Lakeland Hospice at (218) 998-1400 during business hours and ask for the bereavement department. The camp is open to people of all ethnic, cultural, and spiritual backgrounds.