Making a Difference
An Interview with Marlena Hamm

How long have you been involved with Bridges’ Grief Support programs?

I have been volunteering as a camp nurse at Shannon’s Hope Camp since 2012.

What is your day job or focus?

I’m a hospice nurse at the Summerville Hospice House. I absolutely love it!

What is a favorite movie, book, musician or show (& why)?

I love to read so I have many favorites, but if I had to pick just one it would be “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It’s a classic & there is a good lesson to it.

Why is grief support for children/teens important to you?

As a hospice nurse, I often see that there is grief support for adults surrounding the loss of my patients, however, the grief of children is often overlooked.

What losses are you grieving in your life?

My Pop-Pop passed away when I was 17, and I still miss him. I also lost my great-grandmother. I miss getting her letters & sending them back to her. I’ve been blessed not have many super close losses so far. However, my childhood brought about different types of grief so I can relate to a lot of the complicated situations around the losses that the children at camp have faced.

Tell us about the impact (a story/anecdote/a-ha moment) of our grief support programs that you’ve seen first-hand.

Every camp has a huge impact on the children. The way they come to camp shy and quiet, to then mostly being able to share their story is remarkable. The impact the candlelight ceremony has leaves an imprint on my heart each time. If I had to pick one moment that I felt I personally made the biggest difference, it was sitting outside the cabin in the middle of the night with a little girl who couldn’t sleep –  her mom had died of drug overdose. My stepdad is an addict, and overdosed many times. So while I couldn’t fully understand how she felt, I could relate to a lot of what she felt and even understood why she felt a sense of relief that it was all over.  After listening to her for quite awhile, she was able to go back to bed and get a good night’s sleep.

What 3 words would you use to describe your experience as a facilitator (elaborate on your choices if you’d like)?

Rewarding – Impactful – Enjoyable

What have you learned about grief, loss, life/death through your experience?

Camp has helped me to understand how children process death and dying.  It has helped me as a hospice nurse to guide my families on how to help children through the death and dying process of their loved ones.

If you were inviting a friend to get involved, what would you tell them about our grief support programs?

I would tell them to come out for a fun way to make a huge difference in the life of a child. 

What do you do for fun? How do you practice self-care?

I seek new experiences on a regular basis. I give gifts of time/experiences to my friends and family so we can have memories over things. I also love to travel, particularly by cruise ships.

If you could travel anywhere in the world (for free), where would you go & why?

Would a cruise around the world be included in that offer?  I  want to see the world, and picking one place is hard, though I would probably pick Australia or Thailand. I love the culture of both places.  

Please tell us anything else about yourself or your experience with our grief support programs that you would like to share:

I’m a lifetime member of Alpha Phi Omega, the fraternity for community service. While it is not a requirement to continue to volunteer, I feel like it is my duty to do so. Shannon’s Hope Camp has been the perfect opportunity. Camp has become part of who I am. I look forward to it each spring and fall. It has made me a better hospice nurse. If I cam make a difference in the life of just one child, it’s all worth it.