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Facing grief is an act of courage and creativity: courage to grapple with intense and, often, conflicting feelings and having the creativity to recreate a path for moving forward while keeping the connection to those we remember. Nowhere is this truer than at Camp Evergreen.

Hosparus Health’s Camp Evergreen is an annual event that their Grief Counseling Center hosts and is for any family member of a Hosparus Health patient or family in the community wanting to work on ways to cope with the loss of a loved one. Now in its 28th year, the 2019 Camp Evergreen session included more than 45 family members along with Hosparus Health volunteers and staff.

“Camp has meant connecting with people on a deeper level. As a counselor, it is really rewarding to see change so quickly and families receptive to new ideas.” — Grief Counselor

Jim Pilbean Helps a Camp Evergreen camper with a project

In addition to families attending, Camp also includes Hosparus Health grief counselors, staff members and volunteers. This is my 13th year of volunteering with Camp Evergreen and I feel I’ve

been given the gift of being compassionate, supportive, and present for families as they share their stories of the one(s) they have lost. Grief is a hard journey and sometimes a listening ear makes a world of difference. Camp is a ‘safe place’ for families to express their feeling without judgement, and I am honored to be part of that safe place.

“A lot of people go through things I go through—I am not alone.” — Child participant

One of the most popular grief activities during the weekend is ‘Big Emotions.’ Each camper expresses their current feelings and emotions on mural paper; some use words, some draw pictures and some use symbols that they feel emotion to. The paper is taped to a wall and family members throw hard balls of clay at the picture tearing it to pieces. While throwing the balls of clay, they are encouraged to scream and holler as loud as they would like to express their grief. Afterwards they reflect on safe, allowable ways strong emotions can be expressed and supported within their families.

I love this activity because it helps them understand that they are not alone in their journey and the feelings they are feeling are normal. This is a time when their whole world is upside down and sideways, and I get to help them through it. I have heard over the years that when you give to others through volunteering, you always receive more than you give. What I receive is rewarding moments like this.

“All the activities were very meaningful and beneficial. I loved the totem poles and how it started the first night and continued to the very end. One of the most helpful (activities) was the Big Emotions/Anger Wall…” — Parent

2 campers planting the Evergreen Tree

During our closing ceremony on Sunday, an Evergreen tree dedication takes place. We use an Evergreen tree because it never loses it leaves and stays green year-round. Two weeks after Camp, we have an Evergreen Tree planting ceremony at the Grief Counseling Center building in Louisville. After so many years of camp, we have our own Camp Evergreen forest.

“It’s a great way to have fun with your kids and not feel bad about doing so when you are sad. Great way to find out where your kids are at in their grief. Great time to be present without distractions.” — Parent

My hope for each family member that attends Camp, is that those who joined us on Friday evening are not the same families who departed early Sunday afternoon. It is a reminder to all of us that when we set aside time to be with our grief and, healing happens—every single time.

Giving back to the families is a small price for all the blessings I have received during my lifetime. I am passionate about the services Hosparus Health provides to our patients and their families before and after the passing.  When my mother passed, I received so much support from Hosparus that it was natural for me to want to be part of that support for other families. If helping others makes is supposed to make your heart happy, then consider mine smiling from ‘ear to ear’.

Learn more about our grief services here.