SB LLU, Good Grief Camp Calls for Apps
SB LLU, Good Grief Camp Calls for Apps
Dianne Anderson // —
Tragedy is no stranger to many kids across San Bernardino county, many who have suffered some of the most painful experiences that any child could endure — the loss of a parent or sibling.
Each year in the surrounding pristine mountains, about 150 kids meet up to talk about what it means to cope with the crushing sadness and confusion that grips their lives.
It’s a getaway for emotional support, where teen assistant counselors that have survived their own pain can reach back and teach others.
Camp Good Grief is now calling for applications as Loma Linda University prepares for its next round of nature excursions to the mountains this Fall.
Over 20 years ago, the program started for siblings of children, who had died in the oncology unit at the university hospital. Over time, the grief camp expanded for free counseling to include help for children who had lost a parent.
Because their program proved so effective, over the past ten years the camp took their services wider to include all children who had lost someone close to accident, illness, homicide or suicide.
Dorothy Brooks with Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, said that these are the kids that are hardest to open up.
“We did have a few that had a homicides or suicides, and we did notice it’s harder for those children to share freely about their loss, than those who had a death due to accident or illness,” she said.
In 2004, the District Attorneys Office asked how they could help broaden the camp for other kids that were dealing with a violent death of a family member. She said the D.A.’s office offered to pay for the entire camp.
“We were shocked, that they would have enough kids for a camp. They came back with over 100 children,” she said.
Through the victim’s advocates unit, their program connected to many families in need. The costs for all services are paid through Unclaimed Restitution Funds, funds garnered from prisoner wages that are working in the prison.
“If they can’t locate the victims, that money is set aside, and from that allocation the camp is funded,” she said.
Since then, the program hosts weekend retreats twice a year, including Camp Good Grief Special Victims program in the Spring, and Camp Good Grief in November. Both camps are for children age 10 through 18. They have also added a retreat in September for older youth 14 to 18, that have previously attended both camps.
For the most part, the only requirement is that children wait six months from the time of their loss, as it is harder to work with kids that are not ready to be away from home while grieving.
Advocates work directly with the families who have had a homicide in San Bernardino. Given the need for a grief camp in the area, she said they are surprisingly not getting the number of applications as expected.
For their Special Victims Camp, they also work directly with the D.A.’s Office, who refers children who are coping with a homicide.
“They allow us to work with children impacted by suicide. All names come from advocates, who are out in the community working with these families,” she said.
Some camp kids come from internal referrals at the hospital, and they also receive countywide referrals from counselors, and schools that are working with impacted children.
At about 12 pages, the application is intense, but advocates help children or caretakers get through the paperwork.
For camp special victims, a bus brings the parents to camp for a support group meeting, and the kids get to share what they’ve learned.
Most camps are held in the pristine Angeles Oaks, Cedar Falls, and Alpine Meadows. The camps are diverse, with kids coming from all socioeconomic levels and cultures represented.
Typically, about one-third of the campers are new and the rest are returning campers. Once they come out for the first time, most all want to come back again, and stay longer.
As they’ve grown, the returning teens also offer guidance for the newcomers.
“The kids that are returning are incredible packages of hope for those coming for the first time,” she said.
When they reach 18 years, the junior counselors can apply as assistant counselors. She often hears the kids say that it’s their time to pay it back for the new kids.
Because of the experience, some teens want to pursue counseling as a profession.
This year at their special victims camp, she said that one 21-year-old student that participated is now a full-fledged counselor.
“He says, I don’t know what I would have done, my life would have been so different had I not come to grief camp,” she said. “They recognize that camp is making a difference.”
For more information on Camp Good Grief, email firstname.lastname@example.org