I cannot tell you what an amazing feeling I am carrying in my heart right now. Yesterday we picked Richard up from Comfort Zone Camp. We of course stayed for the parents meeting and memorial service before leaving to head home back to our own reality. Nothing is more moving than attending one of these closing ceremonies with these children. All of them have had to face the cruel reality of life at such a young age and so often feel lost in their day to day lives. Camp provides them with such a safe haven and they finally find others who are right there with them in life and the support and love they find in a weekend is just amazing!
From the moment you walk into the room, you can see there is such a transformation. You also can feel the energy from all the parents who love their children but are at a loss to help them as they hold onto home that camp has helped them in a way they cannot. So often as a parent in grief, you find it hard to help your child and there are many reasons to that but this camp does what is out of your hand and changes your child in such a short time. Amazing is not even good enough of a word to explain this. You can see the first time parents as they wait to anxiously see how their child is because you know they worried about them all weekend. The repeat parents are also obvious because they are calm and so excited for these new parents because they already know what these new parents don't. As a repeat parent, you also cannot wait to see your child and see how they blossomed and took leaps and bounds in their grief work.
The healing circle leaders come in and you can see as each parent listens intently. First they want to find out all about their child's experience but then they want to take away tips to help them at home for the next year. The room is full of hungry parents wanting to learn how to help their children through this horrible time they have no control over. Once they go over their general group, the healing circle leaders meet with each parent separately to address their individual child so the parent can hone in on what that child's particular needs may be or just hear how they blossomed over the weekend. The kids come in with their big buddies and the room is transformed into a different place with such positive energy filling the room and the worry that any parent is gone as they see their child for the first time and can see a change in them immediately.
The kids get their chance to remember their loved ones. There is more support and love in that room than you even think is possible in life. Tears and laughter fill the air as each child shares their loved one and their memories with the whole room of grieving individuals. The boundaries between children/parents, age, and the different walks of life are completely gone and everyone is just this one group full of love and support. The kids who may be the outcasts in their home community now thrive and get to be the real people they are inside at camp and this is probably the only time in their lives that they get to do that. These childhood outcasts in life are now transformed into completely different people and as a parent who has one of those children, you cannot even begin to thank the staff for the immense gift they just gave to your child.
The whole room gets involved. We were all singing songs and clapping and supporting these children who yearned for this sort of love since the loss of their loved ones. Sweet Caroline, The Climb, and Lean on me were just a few songs that filled the room with such joy and sorrow but it was ok and you were safe to cry or laugh without judgement. Kids held one another and cried or supported another friend while they shared with everyone. It was beyond amazing and I wish everyone could experience this sort of thing...you cannot even explain it.
Richard actually got his big buddy from last time back and the two of them have such an incredible bond! He also met another child there who not only had a loss but also struggles every day with their own medical diagnosis of Tourretts. This young girl, was so lost and you could see it in her eyes but when the two of them were together there was this bond and emotion for one another that I have never seen before. For the first time in a long time, my son was himself and he just thrived as he wound up being the big man on campus. It was such an amazing gift that camp gave us as his parents...we had our son back for the first time in a long time.
There was a moving moment after Richard had the Curious George song played while his group left the stage that he had with Hugh. Tears streamed down Hugh s face and Richard just hugged him like never before and held onto him and supported his dad in a way never done before. Although they may not be biologically connected, they have such a special bond even though they will butt heads from time to time. I just sat there thanking God for that moment and the gift of that bond for the two of them because I know even though Richard's bio dad is not here all the time that he has a man who is here and who loves him just as if he was his biologically.
Richard was so exhausted after his weekend. I cannot even begin to tell you how much grief work takes out of you. You cannot physically see it so it is very hard to explain to others. There is a problem I am working on with his school yet again for their lack of understanding dealing with his absences. They want to dock his grades because he missed more than 5 days of school. I think this is absurd and now am back to fighting with these people. School triggers panic attacks in him and if he is having a bad day there is no way I am sending him. He was worried about this but needed today off so I told him I don't care what they say at this point but he was not feeling well(he lost his voice) and was exhausted from the weekend so I was not about to force him to go. I'll deal with the school yet again because if we knew he was going to miss, I would let the teachers know and he would get his homework and turn it in the day he returned to school. He is not missing work and is doing well in school so I am pretty irate about all of this. Needless to say, he is still sound asleep and it is 9:30am.
After talking to many parents I really want to see if we can fundraise the money to have a parents camp. They have done this before but just have not had the funding to do so. There will be a bit involved but I really want to make this happen because I believe that it is super important so that as a family unit we can work on things and a parents positive mental health will ultimately lead to the whole family having a better grasp of everything. Often times, I also find that this is such an important step for many fathers who go to just see their children. My husband is one of those because he shoves his feelings down to be the one there for us all. So often they forget George was his son too and that he really doesn't have much in the way of support. My heart breaks for him just thinking about how lonely he feels in this whole thing. I often feel that way but Hugh has it even worse and all I can do is pray that God be enough for him to rely on to get from day to day. This is not easy for anyone but especially for men because our society expects them to handle it "like a man" and be strong and not bothered by it.
All of that being said, if you ever know anyone who has a major loss and there are children, please don't hesitate to let them know about Comfort Zone Camp. If they are not close to a camp, the staff will work on getting them to a camp and if they don't have the money to send them, they will come up with it. They want all children and families to benefit from this because grief is not discriminating. Please keep all these children and families in your prayers because they are now headed back to their unforgiving worlds which most people in their lives do not understand them. It is such a hard thing to do and I feel for these kids who, have for the first time in a long time, laughed and had a smiles on their faces!
George's Guardian's of Grace Projects
Stocking project is now in full force collecting donations. We have a list of the items we can use. You can also choose to sponsor a stocking in memory or honor of someone else. We will include a paragraph or two in the cards we place in the stockings to let the recipient know about the person that means so much to you. Our paypal account is posted on this page and ready to take donations. Email us for a list of items needed or with any questions or information you would like included on a sponsored stocking/donation.
Video Tributes/Celebration of Life Footage
Here is a link to a video tribute that was made by Richard's dad in memory of George. Get out your tissues!
We Finally have footage from the service up and running:
It is in 4 sections running about 17 mins each. If you were unable to attend, you can now see what you missed. We were so blessed to have everyone there with us in person and in spirit!