A fun and safe place for grieving children.

Easing The Pain Of Grief During The Holidays

Easing The Pain Of Grief During The Holidays 


Richmond, VA, December 8, 2008 – Grief is never easy to face, anytime.  The holiday season can be an extremely difficult time for both children and their families.  The country is on the heels of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the horrible wake of hurricane Katrina, and families mourn military losses everyday.  Comfort Zone Camp, the largest bereavement camp in the country for children ages 7-17, helps thousands of families experiencing loss to develop ways to remember and feel comfort.  CZC is offering a camp January 23rd-25th of 2009 giving these children an opportunity to heal after the holiday season.


The death of a loved one is one of the most stressful events a child can face and unfortunately it is not a rare occurrence. One in seven children experiences the loss of a parent or sibling or close relative by the age of 10.


“Holidays can bring grief back in waves.  These times may never seem the same again after your loss.  You can’t turn back time, but you can create special new traditions that honor your loved one and comfort you as well” says Lynne Hughes Founder and CEO of Comfort Zone Camp.


One camper, Hannah, says, “My father’s favorite type of candy was SweeTarts.  So, my mother, brother and I blow up balloons with SweeTarts in them and let them float to heaven, hoping he will receive them.”


A Comfort Zone volunteer, Mike, suggests that grieving families write letters to your loved one and put them in a special stocking or box each year. The letters can be shared with the family or kept private.  “There is something soothing about putting your feelings and thoughts on paper.”


Cassie, a CZC camper says, “I made my dad this slide show; it’s about five or six songs long.  It is of his life and of him and me from when I was a baby to our last picture together.  And every holiday season, I go to the cemetery with my laptop and play it for him.”


The Holiday season are times for families to celebrate, trim the tree, give gifts, etc. but when there is significant hole, trying to celebrate can sometimes bring on a deeper sense of loss.  


“After a tragic event, you feel like you don’t have the right to be happy again,” says seventeen year old Hannah.  


Hughes offers tips on how friends, family and others can help a young person who is grieving:


• Validate the loss.  Its OK to state the obvious:  “It stinks, doesn’t it?”  “It’s not fair is it?”

• Don’t say, “I know how you feel.”

• Ask if you can check on the family and follow through.  Don’t say, “Call me if you need anything.”  Instead, make a concrete offer:  “Can I bring dinner next Wednesday?”

• Share your own stories and memories about the loved one to keep his or her memory alive. 

• Spend time with the child.  Go to a movie or shopping, play in a father/son game, coach a sport.

• Do something commemorative.  Start an annual dinner or place a special candle in the window.

• Reach out on holidays.  These are tough times for grieving families, and most people either forget or avoid acknowledging them.  Even sending a card that says, “Thinking of you today” is appreciated.   


Comfort Zone Camp currently offers children FREE weekend camps in Virginia, northern New Jersey, and southern California.  Currently each camp serves approximately 60 children, ages 7-18.  These children come from a variety of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. 


The Camps combine grief counseling with traditional camp activities.  One unique aspect of Comfort Zone Camp is the one-to-one pairing of children (“little buddies”) to adults (“big buddies”). Many children come to camp “attention-starved,” as surviving parents or guardians are understandably preoccupied with their own grief.  The big buddies serve as the campers’ anchors, mentors and friends.  “Bigs” are screened and trained in grief counseling techniques and carefully matched with campers of the same gender who share the same interests.


The little and big buddies are divided based on the camper’s age into smaller groups called “healing circlesSM.”  These are 90-minute support groups held at different times during the camp, led by volunteer licensed grief therapists who assist children in identifying the emotions associated with the loss of a loved one.  The Healing Circles are designed to help the children identify and express emotions and give them coping tools to help them once they leave camp.  


Another unique aspect of CZC is the memorial service.  Each camp ends with a memorial service including the camper’s surviving parent/guardian in attendance.  The children may sing a song, read a poem, or perform a dance with their healing circle in honor of their loved ones.  


The next camp dates for Virginia are 1/23-1/25/09 at Camp Hanover in Mechanicville, VA.


About Comfort Zone Camps


The mission of CZC is to “offer bereaved children the opportunity to remember their loved ones in a safe and healing camp environment.”  Since its founding, CZC has held over 75 camps and served more than 3,700 children.  To date, campers have come to camps from 37 states and Canada.  Comfort Zone has become the largest bereavement camp program in the country.  Please visit the organization’s Website at http://www.comfortzonecamp.org/

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