Unique camp offers families respite from grief, loss
Video: Singing, making crafts, eating s’mores offered to help with loss
One of more cathartic things was when the kids got to break geodes to discover beautiful crystals inside. “My daughter said it was like ‘getting past ugly feelings.’

Contact: Media@bannerhealth.com

PHOENIX – (April 11, 2018) – The Banner Hospice/Dottie Kissinger Bereavement Camp offers grieving families a unique chance to heal underneath a canopy of blue skies and towering pine trees.

The camp is one of the few in the country that offers entire families – not just children – an opportunity to learn how to cope with the loss of a loved one.

For more than 15 years, families who have experienced losses such as a grandparent dying after years of illness or a sibling dying unexpectedly in an accident, have come to the camp, located outside of Payson, Arizona, to learn how ease their sadness.

Parents often have a difficult time dealing with their own grief and may be unsure of how to help their children grieve, says Rev. Cindy Darby, a board-certified chaplain with Banner Home Care and Hospice. Darby helps supervise the camp.

“We feel that it is very important that we offer counseling and perhaps the early steps of closure to families as a whole. Loss affects every family member and also how they interact with one another.’’

The camp is free and open to any family. It is led and staffed by Banner Hospice volunteers and is offered three times a year, usually in February, April and October. The next camp is April 27-29.

For Alejandra Cervantez of Phoenix, the camp was a “small miracle’’ for her family, after the death of her grandmother from pulmonary fibrosis. The family had endured months of uncertainty as the health of their favorite babysitter and friend had declined.

Cervantez’ extended family, including her mother, sister, children and nieces and nephews, went to the camp at the suggestion of Banner Hospice grief counselors. Those same grief counselors were there to guide the family through the camp.

At the camp, Cervantez learned that it was normal to feel guilt, anger and sadness at the same time. She made friends with other families experiencing the same feelings. The families, who had been complete strangers, still keep in touch.

The Cervantez family participated in sing-alongs, beat drums, danced and as they turned pine cones into squirrel feeders, they shared memories of their loved ones.

One of more cathartic things was when the kids got to break geodes to discover beautiful crystals inside. “My daughter said it was like ‘getting past ugly feelings.’, Cervantez said.

Everyone in the family felt the camp’s effects.  “We cried when we had to come back down the mountain from the camp. It was so nice to take a break from reality,’’ Cervantez said. “You know, now, my kids are addicted to s’mores.’’

Ready-to-edit video of camp participants and activities