By Kelli Reep

Methodist Family Health

If you have breath in your lungs, you have the ability to grieve. While that may seem like a thickheaded statement, many think children don’t or can’t grieve like older kids or adults do.

However, children feel grief with the same degree of intensity they do happiness, anger, sadness. But, without knowing how to express what they are feeling, grief can overwhelm and isolate them, and the toll it can take on their developing hearts, minds and spirits can take years to heal.

More than 1 million children nationwide will lose a parent by age 15. Research shows that the death of a parent may be the most traumatic single event to affect the well-being and health of a developing child. Adult depression, schizophrenia, drug problems and alcohol use may be linked to childhood bereavement. Many more will lose siblings, other relatives, caregivers and close friends. These profound losses affect daily lives, academic and social functioning, and growth toward adulthood.

To address this sooner rather than later, there is a program in Arkansas specifically for helping children and their families who have experienced the loss of a loved one cope with their grief and learn to find joy again. The Kaleidoscope Grief Center, a program of Methodist Family Health, promotes the process of healing through education, therapeutic and recreational services, grief support programs and traditional counseling.

One of Kaleidoscope’s initiatives is Camp Healing Hearts, which is a FREE, overnight, family-oriented grief camp for children ages 5-18 and their families. Camp Healing Hearts provides a safe environment where children and their families can develop coping skills — both individually and within a community of others – and in 2020, Camp Healing Hearts will be at Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock from Friday, May 15 to Sunday, May 17.

Every year, Kaleidoscope Grief Center seeks adult volunteers to assist in making Camp Healing Hearts a joyful, restorative experience. Anyone with a heart for those who grieve, including Stephens ministers, youth group leaders and pastors, can create a space at Camp Healing Hearts for restoration and peace. Whether it’s swimming, basketball, cookouts, crafts or prayer.

If you or someone in your church can help for as little as two hours at this free grief camp, please contact Tracee Paulson 501-906-4246 or TPaulson@MethodistFamily.org. Or, visit the Camp Healing Hearts page under the News & Events tab on MethodistFamily.org.

And, if you know a child and his or her family who could benefit by attending the free camp in May, please contact Dao Ward at 501-537-3991 or DWard@MethodistFamily.org.