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Short and Sweet Summary: It’s extremely difficult to know how to support your kids through their grief while you’re grieving, too. One way is choosing one of these grief camp options for kids that offer fun activities, confidence-building programs, and a place for your kids to rediscover their childhood while they’re processing their own confusing grief.
If you have kids, you understand the soul-crushing job of raising them without your partner.
Solo parenting sucks.
It’s extremely difficult to know how to support your kids through their grief while you’re grieving, too.
One way is to explore grief camp options near you. These grief camps cater specifically to kids dealing with profound grief and help young people learn how to process their confusing and scary feelings while still treating them like normal kids. These camps offer fun activities, confidence-building programs, and a place for kids to rediscover their childhood.
The biggest thing kids learn at grief camp is that they’re not alone. They don’t feel so emotionally or physically isolated when they meet other kids their age with similar experiences.
My kids have attended a grief camp every year since their dad died. It’s by far the highlight of their summer. And because it’s a sleep-away camp, I get a short break too.
It’s a win-win.
Without further ado, here is a list of the best grief camp options for kids to help process their confusing grief.
This is one of the best grief camp options for kids who lost a parent to cancer.
I highly recommend Camp Kesem because my kids attended for several years. This camp’s main purpose is to support children through and beyond their parent’s cancer.
Keep in mind, however, that Camp Kesem supports children whose parents have or have had cancer. Some campers’ parents are currently undergoing cancer treatment and others are in remission.
Not all campers’ parents are deceased.
With that being said, camp coordinators pair kids in cabins and group settings with other kids who’ve lost a parent. My kids had no problems meeting other friends whose parent died.
Camp Kesem serves kids ages 6-18, during a free, 6-day camp that connects campers with other children facing similar experiences. The camp’s focus is on fun, action-packed activities for children to rediscover their childhood.
The college student leaders plan every extraordinary camp experience and their level of enthusiasm for all campers is remarkable. It’s amazing to see the bond between every counselor and camper at the end of the week.
With 116 chapters in 42 states, it’s easy to find a location near you. Each Camp Kesem college chapter holds their camp in an off-site camp facility such as a YMCA, Girl Scout, or other professional camping venue. These venues are not tenting campsites, but rather well-equipped campsites with cabins, activities, cafeterias, etc.
Applications open in January of each year, and processing is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Extended support programs allow your child to remain in contact with their counselors year-round. Camp Kesem staff schedule Spring and Fall Friends + Family days at parks, roller or ice-skating rinks, movie theaters, etc. They also connect with campers on various social media channels
The Camp Kesem FAQ page has detailed answers to the rest of your burning questions.
Comfort Zone Camp
Comfort Zone Camp is a nonprofit 501(c)3 bereavement organization that helps children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.
Their programs are free and include confidence-building activities and age-based support groups that break the emotional isolation of grief.
The 3-day overnight camp program offers youth ages 7-17 a safe and fun environment at a rustic camp facility – campers connect with their peers and learn coping skills through age-appropriate activities and discussions.
Young adults ages 18-25 also have an opportunity to attend a weekend overnight camp in a fun and healing environment with others who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or guardian.
Camps are in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia. But they also partner with other organizations to serve local communities through their Partnership and Community by Design Programs. Be sure to call about camps in your geographic area if you don’t live in or near one of the five states listed above.
You can submit an application online here.
I couldn’t find any definitive data on the best time to register, but camps are held year-round.
Camp Erin is billed as the “largest national bereavement program for youth grieving the death of a significant person in their lives.” Camp Erin is part of Eluna, a non-profit organization with a mission to provide comfort, hope, and healing to children affected by a loss.
Children and teens ages 6-17 can attend a free transformational weekend camp that combines traditional, fun camp activities with grief education and emotional support.
With camps located across the country, in every Major League Baseball city as well as additional locations across the U.S. and Canada, you should be able to find a location near you.
However, be sure to call about camps in your geographic area if you don’t see one listed in or near your state. For example, the map on the Camp Erin website doesn’t show a location specifically for Michigan, but I do know that a local grief support program facilitates Camp Erin in Southeast Michigan.
Every Camp Erin location has its own registration process. Click on the Camp Erin website and click “Find Your Camp” to see a map of camp locations across the country. Next, click on a specific state location to go directly to the registration area of that chapter’s website.
Experience Camp is a free one-week summer camp that gives grieving kids the opportunity to meet and connect with kids who are coping with similar challenges.
According to their website, Experience Camp “provides boys and girls whose parent, sibling or primary caregiver has died, with a program that helps build confidence, encourages laughter and allows them to navigate their grief through friendship, teamwork, athletics, and the common bond of loss.”
The camps typically run for boys and girls in grades 4-12 but age ranges vary depending on location. For example, the Michigan camp is only for grades 4-8. Makes sure to check the website for current camp specifics.
Camps are currently only in Georgia, California, Pennsylvania, Main and Michigan, but there is a section on their website for host camps to reach out for information on how to become a host camp partner. This may increase their locations in the future.
On the camp dates and locations page, you can find the links to a state-specific website which has more information on how to register.
Outward Bound for Grieving Teens
Outward Bound has been providing outstanding outdoor education programs for children and adults for the past 75 years. Their wilderness expeditions challenge participants to discover the technical skills necessary for survival that develop into important life skills.
This is only one of the grief camp options for kids that aren’t free. However, they reduce normal tuition rates due to donor support for the grieving teens’ program. And they also offer scholarships and financial aid to further support those with financial need.
The Outward Bound for Grieving Teens adventures are specifically designed for teens 14-18 coping with the death of a loved one. From canoeing to rock climbing to backpacking, grieving teens will find an outlet to process their grief while learning wilderness travel skills.
According to their website, the one-week programs “provide respectful healing experiences in a wilderness environment” with courses that “implement personal growth methodologies and a simple support model that honors the griever.”
The grieving teens’ courses are located in Main, Oregon, Colorado, and Delaware.
Widow Wrap Up
It’s hard being a solo parent after your spouse dies. There are SO MANY new things you have to learn. Navigating the grief landscape is the hardest one, by far. It’s extremely difficult to know how to support your kids through their grief while you’re grieving, too.
That’s where these amazing grief camps for kids come in. Imagine your kids not feeling so alone after spending time with peers going through similar experiences. A place where your kids can act like kids and laugh, play and have fun.
Imagine your kids creating lifelong friendships and memories that last forever.
You don’t have to imagine.
Just sign them up for a grief camp near you.