Flathead Living Winter 2009/2010 : Page 31

support systems outside of the camp through family and community programs that help people find ways to support and strengthen the bereaved. Barrett says that grief programs tend to be under the radar screen because of the uncomfortable and frightening thought of losing a loved one. One of their goals is to make people more comfortable and supportive as a community in handling grief. The Tamarack professionals have experience in both bereavement and outdoor activities so they are able to balance grieving and remembering with the light-hearted fun of camp. Campers swim, canoe, kayak, play games, sing, do arts and crafts, put on a variety show, and go on nature walks. Other activities include remembering their loved ones. Colorful memory banners created by the campers are draped at the entry of each of their cabins. Campers collect memory objects such as a special rock, stick, or leaf to use later in a commemoration ritual. Campers are given a choice of activities to match their needs or moods throughout camp. Besides the more rowdy camp play there is a memory trail for a quiet time of contemplation and natural nooks like a rocky ledge overlooking the lake or a tree in the forest to lean against while journaling. It looks like a typical camp. Kids tear down to the lake where they have a full menu of activities; kayaking, fishing, swimming, sunning, floating in an inner tube, or doing cannon balls. They act and interact like family. The older kids look out for the younger kids. The older kids tease the younger kids. And the younger kids tease back. They giggle uncontrollably. Or they sit together quietly on the beach in comfortable companionship. They all know and accept that sometimes the fun times might be interrupted or injected with tears. But that’s life. And that’s the way it goes. And keeps going. And keeps things going. Laugh, cry, do a cannon ball, roast a marshmallow, maybe cry again. But as long as the laughing, the roasting marshmallows and ability to make a splash exist—life goes on. www. f latheadl i v ing.com WINTER 2009/2010 | FLATHEAD LIVING 31 Seven keyS to being A ComfoRteR c ommu n i t y Tina Barrett, Director of the Tamarack Grief Resource Center, offers some ideas for interacting with grieving friends and loved ones: 1 Ask and Listen. Sincerely ask about the experience. “What is this like for you?” Avoid saying, “ I know just how you feel.” Every person’s experience and response is unique. 2 Offer specific help. During times of stress it is difficult to identify how others can offer support. Consider what you have to contribute and offer practical ideas. “I’d like to cook dinner for your family next week. I could drop food off at 5 on Monday if that works for you.” or “I can plow your driveway this winter.” 3 Bring symbols of care. Plants, food, and cards are tokens of thoughtfulness. 4 Remind the person how special s/he is to you. Avoid clichés that minimize the experience. Comments such as, “there must be a good reason for this” or “this will make us all stronger” are hurtful and insensitive. Emphasize your care for the person and your willingness to journey through the experience together. 5 Allow them to set the mood. Express acceptance for laughter, tears, venting, relief, confusion, silence, fear, silliness or whatever the person brings up. 6 DO SOMETHING! Most importantly, if you are close to someone who is grieving, show up. Even remarking, “I don’t know what to say” expresses your effort to reach out. Avoiding or ignoring someone is far more destructive than stumbling over your words. 7 Keep showing up. Grief goes on forever. One of the hardest times for many families is when the casseroles stop showing up. Share your own fond memories. Acknowledge significant dates. Keep making phone calls, sending cards, and creating time to be together for years and years.

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