Bereavement camps provide children and teens who are grieving the death of a loved one with a therapeutic, magical experience to help combat grief and trauma. The children can expect to participate in traditional camp programs centered around child and teen-friendly grief therapy activities. Special memorials are held for the respective campers to discuss their personal loss and share their grief as a coping and healing mechanism.
These camps aim to provide short-term peer support to all the campers and promote life-long friendships with other children who share similar stories of loss and grief. Moreover, they offer a safe space for the children to recognize they are not alone in their experiences and to acknowledge that loss and grief are a normal part of life.
There are many benefits of sending your child to a bereavement camp, including identifying personalized coping skills, learning to be more resilient, and building deep-rooted friends they can rely on long after camp. In some cases, the only thing a child needs is to be introduced to a different environment with a group of people who can related with their pain.
Children tend to thrive at bereavement camps because they have other children to talk to on their level, rather than trying to express themselves to their parents. This can be difficult as adults and children process grief differently and struggle to relate to another.
If you're the parent of a child who has recently lost someone you love, finding a bereavement camp for children to attend would mean the world of difference to their healing journey. If you’re seeking more information on bereavement camps to help make a decision, continue reading below to learn more.
When a child or teen experiences the loss of a loved one to death, their response is starkly different from that of adults. Young children typically perceive death as temporary or something that is reversible. This belief system is believed to stem from the utopian-like life scenarios cartoons promote to children. If a cartoon character dies, they almost always come back to life moments later.
As children age and their cognitive systems mature, they tend to look at death similarly to adults. Still, they have difficulty believing death can happen to them or anyone they love. They are still detached, to a degree, from what death truly means.
Making the experience of death worse is when their sole caretakers also deal with the grief and fail to provide the child with their needs. In unfortunate situations like this, the child will inevitably struggle to cope with their emotions appropriately, further prolonging the grief and potentially manifesting lifelong trauma.
Parents and caretakers need to be aware of a typical child's response to death and know how to identify signs that their child is struggling to cope with the grief. But despite knowing the typical signs, parents know their children best and should monitor them for abnormal behavior or signs of distress, which can look different in all children.
To help you know what to look for, here is a list of ways in which children get affected by grief differently:
Disbelief: Young children have a harder time understanding the reality/finality of death and tend to wonder why the deceased is not coming back, or when they might be coming back. Like it is temporary or reversible.
Inability to Cope: Children can go from the emotions of grieving to playing in a short amount of time. Playing is their way of coping. They struggle to cope in a healthy and effective way.
Emotional Instability: It can make kids act out (like reverting to a younger age). Have issues with wetting the bed, acting aggressively when usually they are passive or quiet, not wanting to obey basic rules, etc.
Prolonged Depression and Anxiety: Children can experience an extended period of depression and anxiety and almost always withdraw from social activities, lose interest in daily activities, and self-isolate. If you need some additional resources to help your child cope with what seems like debilitating anxiety, here is an excellent resource you might find useful.
Irrational Fears: It's common for children to develop a fear of being alone, irrationally believing they will lose someone else. Association with this fear is a loss of appetite and inability to sleep through the night.
Behavioral Changes: Children may resort to excessively imitating their loved ones who passed as a way of keeping them alive. It's also a coping mechanism and a way for them to feel more at peace with death.
Hallucinations: Children may go in and out of states of delusion, believing they can see or are talking to their deceased loved one. This could be a way for them to keep their loved ones alive and it brings them solitude in moments of emotional pain.
Unstable Mental State: A common but worrisome sign often seen in grieving children is their repeated wish to join their loved ones in heaven or the afterlife. They no longer want to be on earth if it means they need to be without their loved ones.
Anti-Social: Children may lose interest in their friendships or connections with other family members, including siblings and cousins. If your child begins to exhibit anti-social behaviors and has no one to talk to, they could benefit from keepsake jewelry to help them feel like they have at leave one person close to them. If you’re looking for ideas on what you gift your child during this very difficult time, here are many beautiful options to choose from.
Academic Failure: Many children will experience a quick and steep drop in school performance or refuse to go altogether.
Learn how remembrance gifts can help a child find comfort and make the transition back to school a little easier.
As caretakers, it’s important for the health of your child to be vigilant in monitoring them for these signs. If your child or children begin to display signs or one or a combination of a few, a mental health practitioner should be contacted to offer you guidance on how to deal with it. If you can’t send your child to bereavement camp for some time, here is an article you can read in the meantime that will give you an excellent head start on helping your child cope with their grief.
Fortunately for parents, there has been a rise in bereavement camps across America giving them more options in terms of types of camps to choose from. Whether a parent prefers to send their child to a camp with other children from military families, or a camp that promotes outdoor activists as a way of grieving therapy, there are camps for all families. The most important thing to keep in mind when searching for a suitable bereavement camp is if its mission and overall goals match the needs of tour child.
Below is a list of some of the more common bereavement camps you will come across.
If the child is part of a military family, they would qualify for a bereavement camp for military children. Like all other camps, they aim to create a safe space free from distractions for grieving children to air their grievances and meet other children going through the same experience.
Most programs at these camps will focus on utilizing the outdoors and physical activities as a way of healing and coping with their grief. This will include activities such as swimming, hiking, and outdoor games. These are excellent ways to take a child's mind off the loss of a loved one while inadvertently learning how to become more resilient.
It’s important to find a camp that caters to the child's age range. Doing this will help the child feel more comfortable and will encourage friendship building. Bereavement camp programs are typically broken into the following two categories:
Camps are broken down by age to make the environment more comfortable for the attending campers. Children tend to prefer talking to other children their age, and the goal of bereavement camps is to get children to open up. Therefore, children are grouped by age as a way of fostering a comfortable environment for all attending children.
It’s imperative that parents and caretakers help their children dealing with death. If not, they may begin to manifest serious issues that require specialized care. If children display extreme signs of distress from their grief such as suicidal tendencies, there are special bereavement camps that cater to these unique situations.
They are equipped with on-site mental health practitioners, tools, and resources to help the children cope through a very specialized therapy program. There are many options for parents including the following:
Virtual camps: If parents prefer the child to attend camp from home, they can participate in a virtual camp. Programs will of course be altered to accommodate virtual attendance, but the child will have many programs to participate in, nonetheless.
Outdoor camps: Participating in outdoor activities and taking in vitamin D is one of the most therapeutic and effective ways to deal with grief of any sort. In fact, most therapists will recommend their patients spend as much time outside under the sun when they're struggling with any mental health issue, including grief. When children are at specialized outdoor bereavement camps, they can expect to participate in one or more of the following activities:
Indoor camps: If the weather doesn’t permit, or the parent simply prefers their child to attend an indoor camp, there are many to choose from. The children can participate in many useful therapeutic activities including, the following:
When you decide what bereavement camp to send your child to, you might want to send them with a bereavement gift packed to help with their time away from home. Whether your child prefers jewelry or a keepsake item, there are many options to choose from. Here is a resource to help you decide what works best for your child.
Bereavement camps are designed to provide children with a therapeutic, safe, fun, and loving environment wherein they can comfortably learn about death and what grief is. This cannot be done without the assistance of certified professional mental health and health care practitioners. As such, bereavement camps encompass a group of multiskilled and multitalented professionals, including the following:
Psychologists play a significant role in the success of the attending children. They are not only there as a resource for the children but also overlook all activities to ensure they are beneficial and clinically proven to aid in grieving therapy.
These important specialists offer the attending children direction throughout their journey at camp and their path toward healing. They help children identify and understand their feelings and provide compassionate counseling and guidance.
If your child attends a bereavement camp run by the local chapel or church, a chaplain or priest may be a part of the attending staff. Children often question the spiritual side of death during grief; therefore, it's important to have a professional available to answer their questions.
Art is a scientifically proven method of overcoming grief. Children will participate in arts and crafts activities while at the bereavement camp. Art therapy specialists will be a part of the attending staff so they can design the most effective art and handcraft activities to foster an environment that promotes teamwork, self-expression, and creativity.
Parents of attending children will be required to provide the camp with complete details of the child's medical profile. The attending nurse will keep these details on file to ensure all children are administered their medication if necessary. They are also there to administer medical aid in the event a medical emergency takes place, or an accident happens.
Sending your child to a bereavement camp is starkly different from that of a traditional camp. There will be many different medical professionals in charge of running the facility to ensure the children receives therapy in the form of game and activities. If you’re worried that you’re sending your child away to have a weekend away in the bush only, that is not the case with bereavement camps.
They are specifically designed to promote healing and many health care practitioners are around to foster the healing process. You can think of it as a 24-hour, multiday therapy session for your grieving child. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most children.
We can appreciate how difficult it could be to drop your child off at a bereavement camp during a time the family is going through the loss of a loved one. However, if you find a camp that meets your expectations and you feel your child will be safe, they will undoubtedly have a positive, life-changing experience. If you’re unsure of what to look for, we created a list of critical things to consider when you’re deciding which camp will be best for your child.
This is the first and most important thing to determine. You need to know what the end goal is in sending your child to a bereavement camp. What is it your child is struggling with? Have they become anti-social? Are they withdrawn from the family? Have their grades plummeted? When you have a clear picture of how your child has been affected by the loss, you can have a better idea of what to look for in a camp. If you want your child to spend more time outdoors to learn to become resilient and connect with their peers in nature, choosing an outdoor bereavement camp would be the best option.
Since your child is the one who will be spending their time away at camp, they should most certainly have a say in the camp they go to. Collaborating with them is also a great way to show them that they have direct control over the outcome of their grief and not only you, their parent, or caretaker. It’s also a great way to get their mind off the loss of their loved one so think of this as a therapeutic approach to overcoming their grief.
You want to ensure the camp has a mission in line with yours. If your goal is for your child to leave camp with new friends and a fresh, but healthy perspective of what death means, you should make sure the camp shares this same goal.
Consider how long you want your child to be at camp. If you think one or a couple of days is not enough, seek out a camp that has one week or more to ensure your child has the opportunity to indulge in their therapy sessions and have the time to really open up. On the contrary, if your child seems to be coping relatively well with the loss of their loved one but you still prefer they have an opportunity to talk about their experience with friends, sending them to a bereavement camp for a few days could be beneficial.
Entrusting your child to camp counselors is a difficult thing to do, particularly during a time of grief. It’s best to do thorough research before you send your child for two reasons: to ensure their safety, and so you send them to a camp that will have the impact on them that you’re hoping for. There are many useful ways to do research including the following:
Read Reviews: You can read google and Facebook reviews to get an idea of how other parents and children feel about the camp. It’s best to always seek external reviews instead of the ones posted on their website as the company will always curate the best reviews to post on their website.
Call and Inquire: You most likely have a few questions you want to be answered before choosing a camp. The best way to get your questions answered clearly is by contacting the camp directly. If you have special requests, this would be the time to ask if they could accommodate any unique requests.
Ask Your Child's Doctor or Therapist for Suggestions: Seeking professional opinions from mental health practitioners and GPs who deal with grieving children could be the single most useful approach to finding a reputable camp. They likely have referred patients prior to your child to bereavement camps that they deem safe, reliable, and beneficial. If they have not, you can ask them what to look for that will be applicable to your child. They could be aware of struggles your child is dealing with that you are not.
Look Into the Camp’s Accreditation and Safety Record: This step should never be overlooked because it secures the safety of your child while in their care. You can find their safety record listed on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and their website.
Counselor to Camper Ratio: You might find this information listed on their website but if it’s not, you can call and ask. This is important because you want your child in an environment where they are given one-on-one attention rather than unintentionally ignored. The odds of your child benefiting at a camp with a low counselor-to-camper ratio are a lot higher.
The point of sending your child to a bereavement camp is for them to engage and participate in the programs and activities. If you believe your child will not fare well with the types of programs offered, search for a different one that is better suited to their personal preferences. You can gather this information on the camp’s website or by contacting them directly.
The sole purpose of bereavement camps is to provide a safe space and therapeutic environment for grieving children to thrive. The programs they offered are typically created by or verified by mental health practitioners to ensure there is scientific backing behind the activities included in the program. As such, there are many different ways a child can benefit from attending a licensed and reputable bereavement camp including the following.
At bereavement camps, all attending children have recently lost someone close to them, so this creates a solid common ground for all attending kids. This fosters an environment for the children to bond on a deeper and more meaningful level, and to have peers to talk to when they’re feeling down. Having a support system filled with empathetic people is one of the key factors in overcoming grief.
Greif therapists promote the idea of getting out in nature and engaging in physical and social activities as a therapeutic mechanism for overcoming grief. Finding solace in nature away from distractions is one of the greatest benefits children will have when attending a bereavement camp.
When children attend bereavement camp, one of the main activities they will participate in is talking about their grief and listening to their peers talk about their respective experiences. Doing this will help them understand that losing loved ones to death is an unfortunate reality in life and everyone goes through it.
Being put in this environment will encourage children to be open and talk about their feelings, which is the approach cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) therapists use on their patients to overcome grief.
Life is filled with difficult salutations and learning how to healthily cope with them is an essential aspect of being a functioning human. When children are taught this skill early on in life at bereavement camp, they can apply it to all aspects of life later on.
Camp counselors are trained to recognize what children are dealing with. They apply different techniques to see which one works best for the children, respectively. When the parents or caretakers come to retrieve their child, they can talk to the counselor about what activity and strategy worked for their child.
This information can be applied in the family unit in their home environment. Once you’ve arrived home as a family, you might want to take the time to talk about the good memories of your loved one to promote positive thinking rather than negative. If you’re struggling to ignite this conversation with your grieving child, this article can help guide you.
Domesticated animals such as dogs and horses have long been known to provide therapy to humans going through emotional, psychological, and mental health issues. Some bereavement camps use animals as a form of therapy, which can provide effective and long-term positive effects to grieving campers.
Bereavement camps operate the same as regular camps. The programs can be daily or even last a few weeks. All camps operate differently, and their programs are designed to be in line with their mission. If the mission is to provide in-depth therapy for children who have extreme levels of grief, the programs are likely going to be longer. This is something to keep in mind when choosing a camp.
Fortunately for parents, bereavement camps have become increasingly popular in the last few decades. As such, there are many to choose from. If you’re struggling to find one close to you, there are many resources you can utilize to help guide you.
The cost of sending your child to a bereavement camp varies based on the one you choose. Typically, however, the nonprofit camps have relatively low registration fees. If you choose a private camp, the registration fees will be substantially higher. Below are things to consider when you’re looking around for a suitable bereavement camp.
Inquire on whether the camp is non-profit or private. Prices will vary significantly. You may find bereavement camps funded through your local church so you may want to inquire with them and ask what their registration fees are.
Registration fees don't always cover additional costs such as food and equipment for activities. When you inquire about registration fees, be sure to ask what the camp covers under the “no cost” to families, and what is not covered (camp gear, special clothing needed, special therapy sessions, any additional “snacks” etc.)
Inquire about multiple children discounts. Some bereavement camps will offer a discount if more than one child attends at the same time. Ask about special circumstance discounts. Suppose you’re a single parent, you may qualify for a discount to help you cover the cost.
Your child will be away from home for at least one entire day so it’s important you pack everything they will need. Keep in mind, however, that many camps provide certain items so it’s important that you inquire about this during the registration process. It’s also important to ask if there are any unique items your child should pack aside from the standard basics.
Any personal, comfort items that they may want to bring from home,clothing, toiletries, extra blankets, etc., photos that they may want to have with them.
Cremation jewelry for ashes or a memorial keepsake of the deceased to feel they are with them as they are going through this process, a personal item of the deceased that brings comfort to the child, a journal for older children.
Spending money of their own if there are outside expeditions that the group may take, important contact information in case they feel the need to be in contact with family while they are away.
A favorite toy for younger children, fully stocked first aid kit. This could be necessary if the camp runs out, mosquito spray if it’s outdoor during the summer season.
Appropriate shoes for outdoor activities and special medication if necessary. Give details to the camp counselors.
If you’re planning on sending your child to bereavement camp in the near future but would like to surprise them with photo engraved jewelry of their loved one before they leave, you can find beautiful options here. We’re confident your child will appreciate this gesture and they will likely feel much more comfortable at camp if they have a memorial item as it will help them feel like their loved one is with them, supporting them on their healing journey.
The best way to know if a bereavement camp is right for your child is to research its programs, activities, and mission statement. You want to ensure your child will enjoy the activities and that the mission of the camp is in line with the goals of you and your child.
The best approach is to research multiple camps to see which one your child will enjoy being at. If your child loves outdoor activities, find one that emphasizes outdoor programs. You also want to ensure the programs are designed to help children overcome the type of grief your child is struggling with. This information can be found on the camp's website.
It’s important to monitor your child for signs of grief and behavioral changes. The best way to respond to these changes is to seek a professional mental health practitioner who specializes in child grief. They have the tools and qualifications to administer the most effective treatment plan to your child. Read more on Healing After Loss Through The Grieving Process.
A child processes grief in their own unique way depending on many things, including their available support system and developmental stage. Children and teenagers will require ongoing support, attention, reassurance, and guidance from their parents and a mental health practitioner.
The cost to send your child to a bereavement camp varies. Nonprofit camps are much more affordable than private camps. You may also need to pay a higher registration fee if the service is all-inclusive. Some camps offer multi-camper discounts so inquire about this prior to registering.
If you suspect your child is suffering greatly from the loss of a loved one but they refuse to attend bereavement camp, you may want to consult a mental health practitioner or your family doctor. Forcing your child to attend could result in more harm than good, and that is not what you want. Listen to your child's needs and ask a professional how to move forward with them.
No. In fact, all children respond to bereavement camp differently. Your child may thrive and overcome their grief in a few days, whereas others may feel as though a few weeks at camp did nothing. Reach out to your child periodically to check their progress.
All children and teenagers who recently lost a loved one to death are welcome at a bereavement camp. There is no grief threshold they need to meet in order to qualify for entry.
If you think your child would benefit from attending a bereavement camp, choosing to send them could make a world of difference in their recovery. Once you find the most suitable camp for your child, we're confident you and your child will be empowered and enriched by the experience.
Remember that many camps will give parents pointers on how to continue the therapy in their home setting. Bereavement camps are run by passionate and empathetic counselors who provide the opportunity for children to participate in specialized therapeutic activities. Ultimately, your child will enter an environment designed to help them overcome their grief. It's an opportunity all grieving children should have a shot at.
November 18, 2022 by Frances Kay