Hospice of Central Ohio’s Camp HOCO grief camp helped 30 children, ages 6-12, who have lost a loved one, learn how to work through their grief. The 22nd annual week-long camp was held June 17-21 at Sts. Peter and Paul Retreat Center in Newark.
Camp HOCO is open to the community at no cost in partnership with the Foundation for Hospice of Central Ohio. Through generous donations from members of the community, Hospice of Central Ohio can offer Camp HOCO to children dealing with loss and grief.
Camp activities included arts and crafts, hiking and music. In addition to these traditional camp activities, children participated in grief support activities and gained skills in managing their grief.
The children were given a stuffed bear on the first day of camp to hug and hold when they shared their stories. “This helps them feel more safe and secure while they share their grief stories,” said Maria Johnson, manager of patient and family support services at Hospice of Central Ohio. “At Camp HOCO, we have small group time for the kids to talk and get to know each other. This helps with the feeling of isolation that grief often brings.”
During the week, the children worked on arts and crafts projects. They made memory boxes to add written memories and stories, trinkets and photos they want to share with the person they lost. They also made memory stones and kites to fly messages to their loved ones.
They went on a grief hike, stopping at different stations to talk about the feelings that are common during grief such as sadness, worry and anger.
“We also provide daily music and group activities, where the children come together to have fun and be silly,” Johnson said. “Grief is a tough subject. So, we try to offer as much fun as possible. We want the children to understand that it is OK to be happy and miss your loved one at the same time.”
Camp HOCO provides children with the opportunity to see that they are not alone. They see that there are other children who are missing a loved one and grieving. “The children leave Camp HOCO empowered with information and tools to help them deal with their emotions and grief,” Johnson said. “Camp HOCO helps grieving children learn how to express their emotions, recognize grief and ask for help.”