Art allows kids to express their feelings and
tell their stories without using words.
We are not taught to deal well with death. At a young age, we learn to keep our feelings private. As a result, children often don't know how to talk about their grief when a loved one dies, and sometimes feel guilty for having fun. They feel isolated, different from other kids.
Peter Leech tells a group of kids about
surviving polio as a child, only to lose his ability to walk. Leech, a
local counselor, says kids need to know how to talk about their experiences.
So say counselors at Western Montana's first-ever bereavement camp. To try and help children deal with the pain of losing a family member, a number of local groups teamed up this summer and started Camp O-Ki-Suya, which means "to remember."
Enough people were interested in staffing the camp to
give the children intensive individual attention.
"When people hear 'bereavement camp,' they think we're sitting around crying for four days," says Jo Kimery, a nurse who coordinates Missoula's hospice volunteer program. "We're here to have fun, to give kids the opportunity to speak about their grief when they want to."
Recreational time gives kids a chance
to build lasting friendships.
The camp combines traditional summer activities with a "safe space" for kids who have been through similar traumas. On the fun side of things, they swim, sing around the campfire, play games and fish. They sleep in bunk beds in rustic cabins at the camp near Georgetown Lake. But for those who want to, there's time to talk and to remember.
Canoe trips and watermelon breaks
from the heart of summer fun.
Campers take a walk along the "memory trail" -
a pathway the kids lined with photos
and momentos of loved ones.
A young camper spends his quiet time
rearranging hundreds of baseball cards
brought from home.