A fun and safe place for grieving children.

The Girl with the Dead Dad...Sarah's Story

 

When I was in the sixth grade, my dad died. Everyone said I was “so strong” because my grades were good and I kept up my extra-curricular activities but I didn’t feel strong- I just felt alone. I was “The Girl with the Dead Dad” and I didn’t know how to go back to being “Sarah.” I struggled to connect with my friends; I didn't know how to talk about my dad and I didn't know how to not talk about my dad, either.

 

Two and a half years after my dad died, my mom signed me up to go to Comfort Zone Camp in New Jersey. I lived in Massachusetts. You want me to go talk about this thing I hate talking about… for a whole weekend? No thanks. But I went.

 

In the CZC bubble, I wasn’t “The Girl with the Dead Dad” anymore; I was just myself. CZC taught me how to grieve in ways that weren't so overwhelming and gave me a chance to talk about my dad on my terms. I continued to attend CZC as a camper throughout high school, and each time I became more comfortable talking about my grief and gained a larger support network. Outside of camp, I was able to get over the wall between my grief and my friends. I wasn’t alone anymore.

 

In my senior year of high school I began volunteering for CZC; it was important to me to give back to the community that had provided me with so much.  As a volunteer, I observed the importance of mental health professionals and became interested in how children’s age affects how they show their grief. Therefore, I chose to attend a college with a strong psychology department and focus my undergraduate studies on developmental psychology. When I thought about what I wanted to do after college, there were two options: help prevent childhood bereavement or help support CZC’s mission.  I’ve opted to try both. 

 

Currently, I work as a clinical research coordinator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute with doctors and researchers who are striving to find a cure for patients with brain tumors. In the fall, I will begin a doctoral program in psychology with the eventual goal of researching how to better support grieving children. Comfort Zone Camp didn’t just provide me with healthy coping skills and an extremely supportive community; it became my source of inspiration. I feel so lucky to be a part of the bubble. 

 

Sarah Charbonneau first attended CZC as a camper in 2006 and has been hooked ever since. She has attended a volunteer training and her first camp as a volunteer in 2009, and has since volunteered at 10+ camps as a Junior Counselor, Floater, and Big Buddy in MA and VA. Sarah has additionally fundraised for the Grief Relief 5k, shared how CZC has impacted her at a presentation at Yale University, and participated in the camper panel at a volunteer training.  Sarah loves spreading awareness about Comfort Zone and why it is such a needed community wherever she goes (pictured during a trip to Iceland).

 

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