Dear Friends of Hospice Austin,
In August of 2015, my wife, Mara, died suddenly in the middle of the night. Our four kids were 8, 10, 12, and 14. We were shattered by her loss, but I swore to myself that I would raise the kids to be happy and to live fulfilling lives.
I read books about grieving, sought advice from friends and professionals, and we all attended grief counseling. The kids’ grief counselor recommended they attend Camp Brave Heart. I asked the kids if they wanted to go and they all had the same response—NO! They were nervous about being away from home and frankly sick of dealing with all of this loss. They cried and argued with me, but I signed them up anyway.
On a Monday morning last summer, almost a year after Mara died, I loaded up the minivan to drop off the still-reluctant kids for camp. We arrived to a happy scene—kids running all around while cheerful counselors tried to herd them into groups. I could tell camp was going to be fun. When it was time to go, I hugged and kissed them goodbye. In the car, it hit me suddenly that all these running, laughing kids were dealing with a devastating loss.
Three days later, the buses delivered me four changed kids. Now, they didn’t want camp to be over, and all the other kids seemed to feel the same way. It was incredible.
The thing that stood out most in my mind is that all these kids had a common bond: loss. Together, they didn’t need to feel like outsiders. Unlike at school, or church or social events, at Camp Brave Heart, everyone knew what they were going through.
The kids talked for weeks about all the fun stuff they did at camp and about the opportunity they had to remember and honor their mom. They all agreed it was a beneficial, fun and yet sometimes a difficult experience. My kids now aren’t just surviving, but thriving. I can measure their progress by their grades, their sports and extracurricular activities and their social circles. Counseling and Camp Brave Heart gave my kids the tools to cope with loss, and they are using them. You can see from our picture how well my kids are doing.
Not every kid has the same resources that my kids had, but by supporting Camp Brave Heart, you ensure that they all do have access to this important, life-changing experience. For everyone who has supported Hospice Austin and helped make services like Camp Brave Heart possible, we are proof of the impact you are having.
Do you know a child grieving the death of a loved one? Camp Brave Heart, Hospice Austin’s free camp for grieving children aged 6 – 17, is now accepting applications for its July 31st – Aug. 3rd camp. The camp is held at John Knox Ranch near Wimberley; transportation to and from the camp is provided at a North Central Austin location. Applications are on our website or call (512) 342-4784.