After Jacquie Disque’s mother died 10 years ago, she thought her older daughter, Malia, could benefit from the Memories Matter Bereavement Camp. Her other daughter, Jessica, was too young but started attending the camp when she could.
Both have had great experiences at the camp over the years, said Disque of Great Bend. The annual one-day event is for children ages 5-12 who have experienced the death of a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend or other loved one.
This year’s camp is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 5 at Camp Aldrich. It is sponsored by Golden Belt Home Health and Hospice (GBHH&H), which is owned by St. Rose Ambulatory and Surgery Center. There is no charge.
Malia was about 10 at her first camp; Jessica was about 7.
“They were so close to their grandma when she was sick with ovarian cancer,” Disque said. “They watched her deteriorate. Jessica was little, not quite 4. She just knew that her grandma was gone. Malia definitely understood.
“Malia needed a way to remember her grandma; she needed somewhere to express those feelings and not worry about whether it was okay to cry or okay not to cry,” Disque continued. “It was part of what she needed to do to get through the process of grieving.”
Jessica went through the same process when she got older and now has the experience to help camp novices.
“My dad died when Jessica was 10, also of cancer,” Disque said. “She was the first to say, ‘I have to go; I have to go and talk about Papa.’”
Disque also noted that GBHH&H was “so good to us with both of my parents when they were sick. We were able to keep them at home; that’s a huge thing.”
The family recently experienced another death when Disque’s grandmother passed away.
Jessica will be a camp counselor this year and Malia will attend if she can. “It will be a way to get through yet another death,” Disque said.
Donita Wolf, GBHH&H director, noted that when children experience the loss of a loved one, their grief can be misunderstood by adults.
“Feelings of separation and anxiety are often great,” Wolf explained. “Our counselors understand this. They offer support through the grieving process for children and their families.”
Trained counselors guide campers through a variety of activities designed to provide healing for body, mind and spirit. These include music, art projects, games, a puppet show and balloon launch.
The day includes opportunities for group and individual counseling. Children are encouraged to bring a photo of their loved one, and each receives a tote bag, memory book and stuffed animal.
Parents and guardians may participate if they choose.
Registration forms are available by calling 620-792-8171. They are also available at stroseasc.org.