Camp Mending Hearts: A Place for Grieving Kids
By: Sherri Gragg
For the past two summers, Christ UMC College Station has hosted Camp Mending Hearts for children who are walking through grief.
In 2015, Christ UMC College Station established Mending Hearts Grief Center, an off-site grief ministry. Over time, the ministry has blossomed into a multi-faceted service. Today, Mending Hearts Grief Center ministers to grieving men, women, and children from three different Texas counties. The center offers a wide range of grief ministries including divorce care, a children’s bereavement program, and Compassionate Friends, a ministry for parents who have suffered the loss of a child.
Healing Through Play
This year, Christ UMC College Station is offering their second annual grief camp for children, “Camp Mending Hearts.” The half-day, Monday through Thursday camp will be held July 16-19 in the Christ UMC Children’s building. Founded on the belief that children help each other heal during times of loss, much of the morning is spent in traditional summer camp fun. After playtime, the children come back together for “Healing Circle.” During this session, which is divided according to age group, children are led through intentional exercises to help them process their losses. When the parents return for their children at noon, everyone joins together to each lunch to talk about the day.
Ministry from the Heart
Grief ministry is especially close to Associate Pastor Tommy Myrick’s heart. Not only is he a Licensed Professional Counselor, he and his wife know all too well what it means to walk through dark seasons of grief. In 2002, they lost one of their children in a car accident. “We have focused on grief care since that time,” Myrick said.
Myrick believes it is essential to intentionally give children the space, and tools, they need to process grief. He asserts that studies indicate children don’t begin their grieving process until they know their parents are doing okay. Their grief “freezes.” Additionally, parents who are struggling under the weight of their own loss may find it difficult to marshal the emotional resources to help their children through the process. “My wife and I have two other kids,” Myrick said, “but we were so wrapped up in our own grief, we didn’t even think about their grief. Kids need support.”
A Family Affair
The Mending Hearts Children’s Bereavement program and Camp Mending Hearts know that it is essential to help families walk through their losses side-by-side. That is why helping parents and children learn to talk to each other is an important part of the program. During the school year program, parents and children cover the same material and participate in the same activities during their group times so that they can go home and talk about it. Camp Mending Hearts achieves a similar result by bringing everyone together- children, parents, and facilitators, for a noonday meal at the end of each day of camp.
Christ UMC College Station is continuing to expand their child bereavement program. They have partnered with the GIFT Network, a program that provides grief and trauma assessments for children between the ages of 7-17. The ministry also employs two Licensed Professional Counselors in order to provide three free sessions to anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one. Additionally, Christ UMC College Station looks forward to reaching out to other UMC churches within the Conference with the hope of expanding the reach of the program.
“We have received amazing support for this ministry,” Myrick said, “I think most people understand what it is like to lose someone. They want to help.”
For more information about Mending Hearts Grief Center or “Camp Mending Hearts” bereavement camp for children, visit the ministry’s website at: www.mendingheartsgriefcenter.org.
You can follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MendingHeartsGriefCenter/