Camp Good Grief helps midstate children cope with loss

More than two dozen balloons lifted into the Wednesday afternoon clouds over Vineville Baptist Church.

At the conclusion of Camp Good Grief, 8-year-old Sabrina Barrett of Roberta released two of them in memory of her parents.

“It helped me a lot because when they died I was real sad, but this makes me feel better, a little bit,” Sabrina said.

As the balloons appeared to get smaller and smaller as they floated away, counselors hoped campers felt their own troubles drifting away.

“It’s for them to let go and move on,” said Marzel Poss, who helped organized Hospice Care Options’ first camp in Macon.

The hospice’s foundation began sponsoring similar camps in Milledgeville 14 years ago and launched a program in Eastman seven years later, said CEO Freddie Dwozan.

“My prayer every year is one kid will break down and say, ‘I need to talk to someone,’” Dwozan said. “We may never know how many kids have gotten in touch with their grief and anger.”

Emotions may be similar, but the reasons the children attend vary.

Some of them have lost a parent or grandparent, while others have experienced divorce or family separations due to military deployment.

Others are grieving over the loss of a beloved pet.

Chaplain Tina Clark helps them journal their feelings during the three-day camp and encourages them to continue putting their thoughts on paper.

“Everybody needs to express their grief differently, so make sure they have a number of opportunities to grieve,” Clark said.

The arts also help them heal.

Meredith Taylor, a certified music therapist from Sandersville, finds messages in songs.

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me down. It’s going to be a bright, bright, sunshiny day,” Taylor sang while strumming her guitar at the conclusion of camp.

“It’s really significant to the older kids in giving them a way to realize they’ve gone through some sad times and they can come through it,” Taylor said.

The 26 campers, aged 5 to 14, took empty picture frames and added decorations to make them come alive, symbolizing their own evolution in the grieving process.

“You read some of the kids stories and it will break your heart, and you think ‘how are you dealing with this?’ ” Dwozan said.

Jordan Cansler, 9, is still getting over the death of her grandfather about a year ago.

She watched her balloon drift until it was a tiny dot in the sky.

“I know whenever we release the balloon, his spirit goes up and I can let go,” she said.

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.