We apologize for the absence on the blog, Shannon’s Hope Camp happened this last weekend and there was a lot of prepping that monopolized all of our time over here at Bridges! 

At the end of camp while the few last kids were waiting for their parents, one child said, “I thought we would be crying the whole time” referencing his weekend at camp. I was the one who did his family interview and always specifically say that grief camp isn’t all crying whenever I explain camp to anyone… I gave him a hard time and reminded him of the conversation we had just a few weeks prior.

Shannon’s Hope begins bright and early on a Saturday morning and goes through mid-day Sunday for the kids. They participate in five workshops that cover some heavy topics but also teach them how to process through those topics and how they can cope in a healthy manner. We also have fun — we fly kites on the beach, roast s’mores in a bonfire, and even have a fun dance session with drums. The weekend isn’t all sad but there are definitely tears.

We have our fourth workshop on Saturday night and consists of a candlelight memorial ceremony to remember the loved ones each of these kids lost. It’s hard for the kids, hard for the volunteers, and hard for us staff. The room had emptied and I sat in it for a few minutes looking at the floor where kids and adults were in the midst of some heavy emotions. I turned to my colleague Sarah and said people probably think it’s mean that we do this type of ceremony with the kids, but I added it is so necessary to do stuff like this.

In a world that is so quick to push aside emotions and move on from tragedy, we need to encourage each other to feel and to absorb the emotions that come with the good and the bad. There is no way to get to a better place in grief than to go through and process it. Recognize that death is permanent and grief gives you a pain that is unlike anything else. But it’s through processing that you learn you are not alone and there are things that can be done to help make the pain less consuming and help you move forward, not forgetting your loved one, but moving forward because that is what they would want you to do. Repressing the sadness doesn’t make it go away but will manifest in other forms — anger, depression, apathy, and more.

My heart is so full after a weekend at Shannon’s Hope. When I get the applications and read through the history these kids have lived through, my heart hurts immensely for them. But after a weekend with them and our amazing volunteers, my heart is so much more hopeful because they know they are not alone and hopefully are a little more equipped to take a moment when they feel that anxiety building up in their chest to take a deep breath, acknowledge their emotions, recognize their love for their loved one, and move forward.