Jessica and Alissa
Sisters and Campers at ‘Camp Warm Hearts’
"The most important part of camp was talking to people who understood me and learning how to share my feelings in bad times. I have help now."
Sisters Find Healing and Hope at Children’s Grief Camp
When you enter the home of sisters, Jessica, age 11, and Alissa, age 8, everything about them seems happy and typical. They live in a warm farm house filled with children, a loving mother and step-father, toys, games and a Chihuahua named Hank. They greet you with a friendly handshake and communicate with the electricity that most children their age possess.
However, when looking closer, you see faint traces of a tragic life experience these children have weathered – one which most of their peers will never experience. One such trace is the Camp Warm Hearts sweatshirt that older sister, Jessica, proudly wore on the day this photo was taken.
Jessica explained, “Before I went to camp, I didn’t really talk to anyone because I didn’t know who I could trust. No one really understood what I was going through, so I just didn’t talk about it.”
Jessica and Alissa lost their biological father suddenly and unexpectedly. The girls accepted the news and attended the funeral. After missing nearly a week of school, the girls returned and tried unsuccessfully to casually blend this new truth into their everyday lives.
Their mother, Andrea Gregory explained, “Alissa tends to keep her feelings inside, and Jessica began crying after she went to bed at night. We knew that the girls needed a place to deal with the feelings that their step-siblings and friends weren’t experiencing. After meeting with the bereavement coordinator for MidMichigan Home Care to discuss the camp, I just knew we had to give it a try.”
Losing a loved one can be especially confusing and devastating to a child. Understanding the challenges children face in this circumstance, MidMichigan Home Care and Hospice of Helping Hands team up together to host the annual children’s grief camp, Camp Warm Hearts.
The indoor, winter weekend camp, open to children and teens between the ages of five and 15, offers an opportunity for children to meet others with similar experiences. The camp provides the children with coping mechanisms, unique ways of dealing with grief, as well as fun-filled activities including sledding, arts and crafts, campfire activities and much more.
“The best part of camp for me was hanging out with my counselor, Miss Michelle,” Jessica said. “She was so fun and nice and I could really talk to her. The most important part of camp was talking to people who understood me and learning how to share my feelings in bad times. I have help now.”
Alissa said, “The best part of camp for me was the crafts! I liked the part where I showed a picture of my Dad and talked about my feelings. I started a journal, too. The most important part was the end when they taught us how laughing could be like medicine.”
Only a week after camp, both girls excitedly spoke of their wishes to return, citing reasons ranging from the camp dogs to the counselors, their new friends and even the food!
To learn more about Camp Warm Hearts and other bereavement services available through MidMichigan Home Care, call toll free (800) 862-5002 or visit www.midmichigan.org/homecare.