It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of the healing process of so many Little Buddies throughout my 5 years as part of Comfort Zone Camp.
I recognize the incredible change which can be had in just one weekend, or even a day as evidenced by the recent California Family Camp, when families openly engage in the healing process.
It is something difficult, if not impossible, to do in weekly counseling due to the “camp bubble.” Unfortunately, once we leave that bubble, it is often hard to sustain those changes.
As we go through this holiday season, I am reminded of the many conversations we have had in my, and I am sure other, Healing Circles about the mix of emotions this brings. I hope this will help you remind all the Little Buddies of the amazing power and skills they possess to continue on in their grief journey.
One of the things we share within our groups is the many feelings experienced when someone dies. Often they are feelings we don’t express often, or maybe not even at all. Children, and adults, may believe that certain feelings are wrong. Experiencing sadness can feel wrong when everyone else is seemingly experiencing joy.
We can feel guilty when having feelings of happiness if we think we should be sad because someone died. Remind the Little Buddies, whether it be sad, angry, excited, guilty, jealousy, happiness, or the many other emotions one may have; just remember that no matter what they are feeling, it is okay and healthy to do so. It is how we handle those feelings that is important.
At camp, we try to distinguish between the healthy and the unhealthy coping skills utilized by children and adults. We come up with ways we can help ourselves feel better without getting into trouble for hitting, yelling, daydreaming in class, etc. We talk about music, sports, nature, prayer, writing in journals, talking to others, looking at pictures/videos, spending time with our friends/family/pets or taking some time to be alone.
I could continue on and on as there is an amazing amount of individual and unique coping skills taught to me by children over the years. Yet it seems that once we get back into the “real world” it is harder to implement and maintain our practices despite recognizing the benefits they bring.
As we enter a time of the year that is thought of as bringing peace and joy, take some time to decide what kind of holiday season will be right for you and your children. Recognize that the type of holiday season you wish to have, may be different than others in your family.
Take some time to talk with your children about the feelings they are experiencing as they think about these upcoming holidays without the person who died. Remind them to think about which healthy coping skills will help them through the times when they do experience those undesirable emotions.
Talk amongst those you will spend this holiday with and decide how you will support each other through the season. While it is not possible to control all that happens, it is possible to refresh our memories of what has helped us in the past. With some thought and planning, I hope you and your children are able to experience the holidays in a way that honors your loved ones and also feels right for everyone involved.
Our thanks to Comfort Zone Camp Healing Circle Mike Kornbluth for sharing his thoughts with us during the 2013 holiday season.