‘The best week of the year’ – a model of a therapeutic camp for bereaved teenagers

Starting today, a new short series about bereaved children and teenagers with examples of initiatives from Greece, Romania, and the UK . . .

Emanuel Hospice in Romania offers a five-day overnight camp for bereaved teenagers with opportunities for grief work balanced with a healthy dose of traditional camp activities and fun. Marinela Murg, a social worker and Executive Director of Emanuel Hospice Palliative Home Care Service, Oradea, Romania, explains.


Marinela Murg

Marinela Murg

The loss of a significant person can be a particularly devastating experience for teenagers, who are already going through a difficult period, owing to the developmental changes they are undergoing at this stage of life. In the absence of appropriate emotional support and interventions, grieving teenagers may experience a hard, stressful and tiring time, or may develop maladaptive coping behaviours. Therefore, helping teens that have experienced a significant loss to understand grief, and offering them consistent and compassionate support, can be considered key components to providing beneficent palliative care.

Arts and crafts – one of many traditional camp activities and part of remembering and grieving

Arts and crafts – one of many traditional camp activities and an important part of remembering and grieving

Emanuel Hospice organises every two years a bereavement therapeutic camp, ‘The Morning Star Camp’, for teens aged 12-18 that have experienced the loss of a family member within the last 24 months. This five-day overnight camp offers teens unique opportunities for grief work and commemorative activities in a safe and nurturing environment. Under the guidance of two social workers and a psychologist with expertise in bereavement counselling, grieving and remembering are balanced with a healthy dose of traditional camp fun: games, sports competitions, arts and crafts, singing, treasure hunts, hiking, nature walks and campfire.

The purpose of the camp is to facilitate the grieving process of bereaved teens while providing a safe and healing experience. In this regard the camp programme includes therapeutic activities designed to help the teens to confront their grief, to let go of the past and adjust to a new life without the significant loved one who died. Participants have the opportunity to relate to other young people that have suffered similar losses, realizing they are not alone in facing such an experience. There are also activities that encourage teens to celebrate the life of the person who has died, valuing the most precious memories. The spiritual aspects of grief are approached through therapeutic stories that inspire hope in eternal reunion with the loved ones.

A young camper

A young camper

Attending The Morning Star Camp is about expressing feelings, sharing memories, trying new activities, and learning that one is never alone in their grief. It’s a place where participants feel free to laugh, cry, play, create and remember the person who died or forget the grief that weighs them down. They feel ‘normal’ because everyone in the camp passed through a similar experience and understands what it’s like to lose a loved from advanced cancer. The camp is a home away from home and participants often rate it as “the best week of the year”.

“We learned in the camp to accept ourselves and to help each other, no matter the circumstances we went through. The therapeutic activities cleared the inner pain of our souls and helped us to recover so that we can get on with our life and appreciate it. The camp gave us opportunities to cry together, but also to have fun together and find out that this was ok and that there is life after loss. We really laughed a lot and had a great time!”
(L. bereaved teenager).

The Morning Star Camp offers free of charge a truly transformative week to bereaved teenagers. The social and emotional benefits of those attending are long term as they are helped to cope and heal from their losses. In an effort to establish positive coping skills and support systems, teens gain tools, resources, memories, and friendships that can last a lifetime.

To find out more

Coming up on the EAPC Blog . . .
This series will continue during August with one article published each week. Next week, Professor Danai Papadatou writes about bereavement care for children in Greece.

This entry was posted in BEREAVEMENT, Bereavement, Children and young people, East & Central Europe, NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL REPORTS, PATIENT & FAMILY CARE and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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