BC: I was afraid that I would forget you Until I glanced at my reflection in the mirror And saw your smile... | C. McGarvey
FC: Reflection | Catherine McGarvey | A Child's Grief Set Free
1: Dedicated in memory of Eric- We miss you- | and to Caleb who cherishes your memory.
2: September 24, 2010
3: Preface This book is about my experiences working at a grief camp designed for children who have lost loved ones through death. Because privacy is of utmost importance, there are no faces of children displayed. In place of the missing faces, you may be able to place your own and allow your heart grief to be set free.
5: “My mommy was beautiful, but she had a bad habit.” “I miss my baby sister.” “My mommy died one day after my birthday last year. I remembered that on my birthday this year.” As these words were spoken, my heart was rent in two-so young, so innocent, to have experienced such great sorrow.
7: This summer, I had an experience like never before. I was the “craft lady” for Grief Camp for Kids. This camp was designed for children who had experienced the loss of a loved one. Every activity and craft had a purpose: to draw those buried feelings to the surface, to allow the sad thoughts to fly away, and to replace the emptiness with happy memories.
9: As each child arrived, he or she would carefully look over the colored wrist bands and choose based on the feelings of the moment. Do I want black for sad, yellow for happy, maybe red for angry or green for growing? These bands could then be exchanged throughout the day as emotions changed. Stories of loss were told from the youngest to the oldest. We had a common bond: we all cared. The loss included infants, children, spouses, siblings, grandparents, friends- all touching the deepest parts of the soul. And so our days were spent with many activities that allowed these deepest thoughts an avenue of release. Each child paired with a buddy would become involved in each path of expression.
11: We enjoyed drum therapy where the children were permitted to drum their feelings and favorite songs while the rest of us played along. We sang to the beat, danced to the beat, and listened to the expression of others. There were eggs that shook, crickets that chirped, and waves that rolled in on the shore, all giving a sense of strong emotion followed by peace.
12: "When we get to heaven, me and my brothers are goin' to run up and hug mommy."
13: Play times were scattered throughout the day as a release from the intense activities, but behind laughter on the swings were little hearts that would become sad and quiet with the realization that the swing next to them was now empty. As the teeter-totter went up into the air, thoughts flowed from the heart.
15: Amidst this myriad of activities came mine- crafts. Journals were created and decorated with names, stickers, and markers. Each child and his or her buddy would take the journal and a chosen quilt, find a shade tree, and begin to reflect. While telling their stories, many of the children had their buddy do the writing allowing their thoughts to flow uninterrupted. It quickly became a favorite quiet time of the day for the pairs as many memories were set free.
16: "Me and Mommy liked to swing." | "My mom liked flowers."
17: T-shirts were decorated with paintings that reflected “happy things” that the child and loved one had done together. There were swing sets and flower gardens, trips to the zoo... each completed while listening to the chatter of childhood stories.
19: Memory boxes were created to be filled with items of significant importance. Picture frames were designed with the loved one in mind. A less intense craft was the picture collage. The children told us what they wanted to include, and we adults sifted through many magazines helping with their creations.
21: The most difficult craft was the pillowcase. There was a “happy side” and a “sad side.” The happy side was fun and carefree as we listened and laughed with the children as they painted. However, the sad side was heartbreaking- air becoming silent and thick with emotions and our hearts becoming heavy as we began to carry their burdens. After completing the sad side, a child looked up and exclaimed, “I feel empty now.” The reply came: “Now you can fill that empty spot with happy things.”
23: On our last day, we held a memorial service. The children displayed their crafts and watched a photographic presentation of our week together. We shared what we had learned and then had sweet fellowship. As one child declared, “It isn’t fair,” I agreed with her. Life isn’t always fair, but God is good, and with Him comes hope-always.
25: The week had ended, and I began to reflect on what I had learned. This camp was emotionally overwhelming yet freeing. I went to teach them how to do crafts; however, they were the ones who taught me. From one child, I learned artistic expression-how to draw the innermost feelings of the heart. From another, I came to understand contemplation as she sat for many minutes in deep thought before vigorously beginning her heart art expressions. From the littlest child, I came to the realization that even a very young child experiences the deepest thoughts of loss. Because of each of these children, I now wear the green arm band for growing. May each of you grow with us and allow your own grief to be set free.
27: Reflection I was afraid that I would forget you Until I glanced at my reflection in the mirror And saw your smile- Until I laughed with my dearest friend And heard your voice- Until I reached for the face of a child And felt your touch. Then I knew that I would never forget, For you had left part of yourself behind: Me.