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The Ones Left Behind: A Camp for Grieving Kids

The loss of a loved one leaves many holes for a family to fill - emotional, physical, even financial. Too often, kids are both the ones most impacted yet least equipped to work through the situation.

But a new program in inner city Cleveland is working to fill those gaps and help kids who have suffered tragedy find a way to grieve, connect and find ways to move forward with their new realities.

You could call it grief camp, but it’s about far more than grieving. “Our goal is to instill in [the kids] Kids playing instrumentsencouragement, to motivate them to keep pressing on, to keep living life, but also to facilitate some of the necessary healing,” said Ty Morgan, spiritual director of Cornerstone of Hope, the organization behind the Cleveland program. “After you lose somebody, it does cause a big wound in your heart and your soul.”

Basically, Cornerstone of Hope, which offers a variety of grief and support services in Ohio for people who suffer a loss, recognized that while life insurance and legal arrangements can help protect kids and families on some level, it takes more than that to really address such a loss.

The weeklong program is designed to help kids explore and express their feelings through group activities, counseling and creative expression - and also just have fun.

"This is a camp for grieving kids, but we don’t want to completely emphasize their sadness, their anger, those negative emotions,” said Morgan. “We want them to have fun - they’re still kids – and show them that they can have fun despite their loss.”

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Mark Tripodi, executive director and founder of Cornerstone of Hope, said he has seen this kind of approach give kids new ways to express themselves. “We foster different types of interventions for kids to express their grief, and one of the most powerful forms is the performing arts,” he said.

While the first two Cornerstone camps served kids in rural Ohio, the new camp in Cleveland, Camp Heroes, was specifically established to reach a new group of kids in the inner cities.

"We have definitely seen a lot of loss in the inner city, whether it’s from gang violence or other violence, accidental overdose is definitely on the rise in the Cleveland area,” said Shannon Grubich, camp coordinator and counselor with Cornerstone.

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Wherever there is loss, Cornerstone offers a model for extending an emotional lifeline to kids.

“This next chapter is going to be difficult because their loved one is not with them, but it doesn’t have to be a terrible chapter of tragedy,” said Morgan. “It can be one of triumph.”



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