Now that the kids are back in school and the excitement of summer is winding down, I have found myself reflecting on the past few months. This summer has been full of fun and new experiences, but one in particular stands out – Camp Solace.
Over the past year I have had the privilege to facilitate teen grief groups for the Douglas Center for Hope and Healing. Although working through grief can be deeply emotional, I am comfortable with the process because I understand the value it offers participant and facilitator alike. Nevertheless, I had been feeling my inspiration for grief work waning in recent months, and knew I needed something to reenergize me. Enter Camp Solace!
Camp Solace is a weekend long summer camp for grieving children and teens. It provides a unique opportunity for youth to process their grief through mediums of art, writing, and music. It balances the heavy nature of grief work with fun activities, such as kayaking, swimming, sports, skits, and hanging on the beach. Thanks to the generous contributions of our community, DCHH was able to send our youth to attend. Sensing it was an opportunity for new inspiration and energy I needed, I signed on as a counselor.
As the weekend unfolded I was moved, deeply, by the courage and transformation I witnessed in each of the campers. The majority of these youth live with significant loss: mothers, fathers, grandparents, and siblings. Often, life requires them to move forward and function “normally” despite emotional turmoil and instability in their living environments. However, at camp Solace this expectation does not exist; campers can participate just as they are. As it turns out, this is no small task…
Once campers realized they were part of a community united by loss, a sense of trust developed. Youth who often feel silenced and isolated, bravely rose to speak of their lost loved ones, openly expressing their pain and grief. Courageously, they embraced the opportunity to face their loss in the presence of others. While they listened to and supported one another, they recognized each other’s pain, taking solace in the knowledge they are not, in fact, alone.
Together they lifted each other up; together they healed.
Taking part in this experience was truly life changing. To say I found the inspiration I was looking for is an understatement. I feel more blessed than ever to be part of the transformational work DCHH offers the youth in our community. Further, I realize this opportunity would not be possible without the generosity of those who contribute financially and/or personally. As such, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone committed to providing our youth with this opportunity. Without you this experience would not be possible.
Natalie Gautereaux is a Gardnerville resident.