- Hello Grief - http://www.hellogrief.org -

A Comfort Zone Camp Review

[1]Thanks to Travis for sharing this in-depth review of his first experience with Comfort Zone Camp, and what it was like getting support while grieving the loss of his sister and grandfather.

Honestly, I was a skeptic before deciding to attend CZC. Being 16 it’s challenging to watch videos online of children dancing, holding hands being jolly, especially with your buddies watching the videos with you.

I let them clown on me all they want, I knew I needed some help for my losses. My sister and grandpa passed away a month before, and a day after my birthday in December last year (murder and old age).

Friday

I arrived fashionably late to my first CZC and was introduced to my Big Buddy Brian, actually it was his first time being a Big Buddy. Honestly me and this dude just hit it off. I know professionals match the big and little buddy, and they did one heck of a job.

We had similar stories, politics, religion  – all that jazz. He cracks me up and he understands me.

I’m not used to someone asking me ”What do you wanna do?” It’s just abnormal, since tragedy struck my family it’s been like a domino effect and I’ve been concentrating so much on gently stacking each domino back up, that I lose concentration on my self. I was hesitant to answer, but Brian said “Dude, I’m here for you.”

The healing circles were inspirational and powerful. Each person explaining what happened and what’s going on is a very courageous thing to do, especially if you’re not used to opening up and expressing your emotions. I told my story and that went smoothly; I gave people some good laughs, and received a lot of head nods and sighs.

During the end of each healing circle we passed out pins to anyone that did something more than expected to do.

I received a pin from my big awesome Buddy Brian. As he gave his speech on why I deserved such a noble, priceless reward, he choked. He had more to say but his emotions got to him. I stared at him and I’ve never felt that way before. Someone like him (he was the ‘popular jock’ in high school) having an unbearable moment on why he was giving something to me…unfathomable, heart touching, and life changing. Obviously I made some sort of dramatic impact on him one way or another.

Saturday

At the fashion show our group did the Wizard of Oz theme. I was the commentator and I introduced to the crowd our lovely paper-designed models.

As the crowd clapped their hands, I went to the middle of the stage blocking my group and shouted “I SAY MALI! YOU SAY BU!”  “MALI!” I face the mic to the crowd.. “BU!”, “MALI!”,”BU!”. As the crowd says “BU” I threw my script into the air, dropped the mic, whipped my hood over my head, threw my hands in the air and walked out. I got cheers and laughs! And, I got a pin for it.

After came the bond fire, a time for… well bonding. It’s all fun in the beginning calling out people to sizzle for our group, getting s’mores, watching skits, and singing – just a good time.

Earlier that day the LIttles and the Bigs were each given a flashcard to write on and throw into the fire. Throwing the letter into the fire gives it that spiritual feeling of knowing that it’s going to the right place to our loved ones. Each group went up and tossed in a note while saying in memory of whomever. That bond fire reminded me of my sister’s funeral just before I gave my speech about her. Sniffles and moans, the vibes, the atmosphere, the sounds; I had to shed some tears. Luckily, I had my Big Buddy to lean on for support. Brian and I stayed a while longer just for me to soak it all in and get it out of my system.

Sunday

After our lovely breakfast, we ventured for a morning hike led by the legendary Bob. During the hike we choose something significant that could metaphorically represent our grieving or loss. I threw a rock onto the group to make it smaller, and it broke into a heart shape. I said something like “I chose this because it’s the shape of a heart, and although rough around the edges it represents love in a different way, and it has like orange stuff growing on it, so that’s a sign of life.”

From a previous challenge we started on Saturday we had a paper with the range of “Rock Bottom” to “Nirvana”. Each member of the group placed a rock on the grid for where they are on the grieving scale. I set mine at 3/4 towards Nirvana at first, but when we came back I placed it at 1/4. I came to think it’s not about being strong and keeping my head held high, it’s about getting support and not beating yourself up. I truly was beating the dead horse, I still would be beating that poor old horse if I hadn’t come this weekend.

After that it was lunch time and time to sign shirts. Then the memorial service. Some final performances in honor of our passing love ones. After all this, it was time to say goodbye to the amazing people I met this weekend. It was a short three days I spent with these people, and it feels like I’ve known them for years. All the staff, are just phenomenal in what they do. I couldn’t fathom to explain how much this helped me. I would 10000% recommend CZC too any kid with a similar problem.

I’m at a loss of words describing the camp. I laughed, I cried. I opened my eyes that much more.

There’s also something different about this place. During the Saturday night bond fire as we were loud and enjoying ourselves, we would hear crickets; pretty loud ones too. Yet, when one of the counselors started the moment of silence, even the crickets stayed silent. It’s powerful. Also, for the closing ceremony, memorial service when an act would start on stage the sunlight would pop out, when it grew silent it began to drizzle again.

The first half of the battle is arriving, the second half of the battle is leaving.

Michelle (our group leader) and Brian talked to my mom for a while. My mom told me that the counselors talked me up. I’m not going to brag, but I did get 5 pins this weekend.

Leaving was hard, I gave my Big Buddy a hug for goodbye. Man-O-man was that hard. It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s alright I just finished my junior counselors application. See yall on da’ flip side!