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Hospice hosts camp for kids struggling with grief

Grief and loss are tough emotions to deal with at any age, but they can be especially challenging for young children.

To help kids get through such a difficult time, Nathan Adelson Hospice is once again hosting Camp Mariposa at the end of this month to give children the opportunity to learn in their own way how to deal with grief and loss and find support in their peers.

Mariposa is a three-day overnight camp where children are guided through a combination of bereavement discussions and fun camp activities to help them work through the natural process of grieving.

“It’s just a weekend that helps a little bit. It’s not like they come and it’s over and done with, but it gives them an opportunity to maybe bond with others kids who have had a similar loss,” Rev. Julie Platson of NAH said of the camp. “It’s a weekend where it’s not intense therapy. A lot of it is through play and arts and crafts. Children grieve a lot differently than adults as far as being able to help them talk about it and process it, and don’t just sit around in a group and talk like adults do.”

Children will have time to play and participate in activities like arts and crafts, music, skits and other typical camp activities in addition to spending time talking about their loss and experience with peers in what the camp calls “healing circles.”

Platson said though the kids don’t spend all weekend directly discussing the children’s losses or emotions, many of the activities they participate in are catalysts for children to feel more comfortable and open when it comes to expressing how they’re feeling.

“It kind of breaks the ice. A lot of times they process things differently than adults do, so you have to kind of go about it in a different way where they’ll be able find the words to express what’s often hard to do. And kids learn a lot through play, period. That’s just the different age levels of children, they process information a lot differently than adults do. So you have to find activities that meet them where they are developmentally,” she said.

“One of the arts and crafts has to do with a face mask. A lot of times when people are going through grief they put on that outside face where I’m showing you I’m smiling and happy, but then sometimes what you’re feeling inside is totally different. So this one activity with the masks they paint on both sides. On the outside they paint what they look like on the outside, how they feel on the outside, but then they flip it over and it’s how they feel inside. The activities are meant to help them talk about their grief and are meant to open the door a little bit to get them to start thinking about how they’re feeling and talking about it to others and not just holding it all inside.”

Though the camp is only for a single weekend, Platson said the tools and experiences children take away from the camp have proven very helpful for the whole family in continuing to work through and process the loss of a loved one.

“It’s a fun weekend for them — they learn a lot, they play a lot, but it doesn’t end there, hopefully it keeps the conversation going once they get home,” she said.

The camp is run by a combination of volunteers from NAH as well as from both the Las Vegas and Pahrump communities.

Because of the large volume of volunteers they receive each year and various grants and sponsorships, NAH is able to offer this camp free of charge to children in the Southern Nevada area.

Though the camp is geared toward helping children work through their grief, it is also an excellent opportunity for the adult volunteers to learn lessons of resiliency and strength from the children as well.

“You just see the amazing strength of children. Some of the kids have just been through so much and you just wonder how they’re still playing and laughing and having fun. They have so much to teach us, I think, about getting through tough times and grief and loss because they come through it. They’re an inspiration to the adults there and it’s a just a joy to be there with them. We have a lot to teach each other,” she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon there were still slots open for children to attend this year’s Camp Mariposa.

The camp will accept 50 children for the event which is slated to take place June 28-30 at Potosi Pines Camp in Las Vegas.

According to the website, applications are due today for those interested in attending the camp this year.

For more information or an application to attend Camp Mariposa, visit www.nah.org and click on the link for Camp Mariposa under the Center for Compassionate Care tab on the website.

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