Providing hope for kids grieving the loss of a loved one
If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you know the hole it creates, leaving a scar that heals only with time. But when a child loses a parent, the wound is even deeper — and often more significant.
Cameron is one such child. When he lost his father three years ago, his grief was overwhelming. He had never even had the chance to say goodbye. He didn’t know how he would ever find comfort in the midst of his deep sadness.
But thanks to his experience at Mercy Health’s Camp Robin, he has found the strength and coping skills to carry on, as well as the courage to help others through the process.
Camp Robin is a free day camp providing support and counseling for children ages 4–17 grieving the loss of a loved one. Lourdes Hospital in Paducah has offered the camp for more than 10 years, providing a haven for these kids to express their loss and create a support system for one another.
“When you see these children hurting and you see how they’re working through that grief, and you see where they start and where they end, you have such a sense of accomplishment,” said Shannah Poindexter, community relationship manager for Lourdes Home Care and volunteer coordinator for Camp Robin. “Serving the community and giving them a safe place to come and really work through the things they’re feeling — I don’t think there’s anything better than that.”
Through the programs, Cameron learned that it is okay to grieve. “Before, I wouldn’t cry as much, I would hold it all in and then I learned that it wasn’t good,” he reflects.
Cameron feels the camp has given him the proper tools to cope with the grief he experiences and he now wants to pay it forward. Camp Robin has inspired him to consider mental health counseling for a career. “Everything I’ve been through, I want to help people who need the help,” he says.
While the program has been important to Cameron in many ways, the most memorable part has been the annual memorial ceremony balloon release. To cap off the day, each camper writes a message to their loved one, places it in a balloon and, along with all the other campers’ balloons, releases it to the heavens. This was Cameron’s chance to say all the things he wanted … to tell his dad he loved him … to say goodbye.