Grief, said author and national poet laureate Maya Angelou, isn’t something you get over, it’s something you go through.
It’s from that notion that the Comfort Zone Family Retreat was established for families and individuals who are grieving the death of a loved one. The camp is scheduled for Oct. 20 through 22 at Camp Lakeside north of Scott City and is for children, teens and adults.
“Grief is a natural part of life and a process that needs to be fully experienced,” said Gina Cash, St. Catherine Hospice bereavement and volunteer coordinator. “Because each person’s grief and coping skills are unique, conflict and hard feelings often arise within families going through bereavement. Camp Comfort Family Retreat is designed to recognize the discomfort and pain in grief through activities and processes throughout the weekend and help those attending come to realize they are not alone and that their feelings are normal.”
The Comfort Zone Family Retreat goals include allowing participants to acknowledge the loss and the feelings surrounding the loss, acknowledge that people are not alone in their grief, educate families on coping and survivor skills and to encourage families to be open and supportive within their own family unit.
Children, according to Cash, do experience grief, however a child’s understanding of death is different from that of an adult. Through play and one-on-one support, the Comfort Zone provides a safe place for children to share their feelings surrounding their loss.
“For teens, the grief experience often comes suddenly and unexpectedly,” said Cash. “The Comfort Zone offers special sessions and activities designed for teens, giving them coping tools and offering friendship with those who share similar experiences.”
Many adults are uncomfortable with their grief reactions. How adults respond when losing a loved one has a major impact on the way children and teens react to death and loss.
“The retreat allows adults to share their feelings, turn their grief to mourning and gain tools to help them and their family as they move through grief,” said Cash. “It’s a time they no longer have to put up a front for their children or others; they can do some hard work to be able to be supportive to those who are counting on them to be there.”
Cash said this step is especially important. She cites internationally known grief educator Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s book "Loving from the Outside In, Mourning from the Inside Out" that suggests the capacity to love requires the necessity to mourn. In other words, love and grief are two sides of the same coin. One does not — and cannot — exist without the other.
Families or individuals who have experienced the loss of a significant person are invited to apply for the retreat. There is a requirement that the family participate by staying on site from Friday night through Sunday afternoon. The number of participants is limited, so registration is required. The cost is $10 per family member for the entire retreat, which includes six meals and two nights lodging. Financial aid is available to assist families who would not otherwise be able to attend.
“Grieving may be the hardest work anyone will have ever done,” Cash said. “Perhaps the most compassionate thing you can do for yourself at this difficult time is to reach out for help from others. That is what the Comfort Zone is really about.”
To register or for more information, call (620) 272-2519 or (800) 281-4077.