Camp Teaches Children to Understand Loss


It was an emotional and uplifting week at the 28th annual Camp New Hope which took place this year at Delaware Hospice in Milford, DE as part of the organization’s New Hope community support group. The weeklong summer camp brings together children and teenagers, 6 through 17, that are coping with the death of a close family member. It provides them with a sense of healing through the process of sharing their grief with peers in a supportive environment. The camp is part of Delaware Hospice’s year-round, nationally-recognized New Hope program to help children deal with loss.

“We want to show these children that they have outlets to express their feelings and its great for them to experience them,” said Camp Director Elizabeth Scheer. “Camp provides them with a way to feel hope, make new memories with others while still honoring the memories of their loved ones.”

Camp New Hope provides children an opportunity to connect with peers who have had similar experiences in an attempt to help them share and understand their grief. The children learn to cope with what they are going through by means of discussion, various projects and interaction with counselors. They develop appropriate coping skills and learn to grieve in a positive way by funneling negative feelings into positive action.

Throughout the week the campers learn to process their loss through various activities such as making a memory box in honor of their loved ones and sharing mementos about their loved ones with their new friends. The times of grief processing is balanced with recreational activities such as playing on the playground or water games. These times help the campers realize that it is healthy to think about their loved ones, feel sad but also learn that it is alright to have fun again.

On Wednesday, campers joined together to form a drum circle, learning how to express their feelings through music. Each child had the opportunity to create and design their own drum before they played together as one. 

Eleven-year-old Emily Smallwood was all smiles as she created her own musical instrument. “Dad used to make pottery and drums,” said Smallwood, who lost her father to suicide just two weeks prior. “It’s going pretty well here, I am talking to people I want to and I feel comfortable. Camp has taken my mind off of things that are sad and I have made new friends.”

Eight-year-old Haylo Crew was looking up to the older campers for a way to help express her feelings for her late Father and Grandmother. “It’s been fun, my favorite part was the photo booth calling people from heaven and making our memories boxes,” she said, “Camp is helping me be in control when I am thinking about people in my family.”

Camp New Hope counselors, many of them volunteers, know that their commitment to Camp New Hope is shaping the future of local children and their families. “We hope to teach good coping skills and teach them that every feeling is okay,” said counselor Robin Murphy. “It’s even okay to be mad at our loved ones, but we want to learn to deal with them in healthy ways.”

Camp New Hope has impacted thousands of lives. Not only do the campers experience the benefits of Camp, but also the hundreds of volunteers, staff members and guest presenters who have served at camp over these past 28 years have been privileged to witness the transformation of the children and teens.