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Helping kids cope with grief: Quinipet will become Camp Good Mourning! for a weekend

It is said that one of the most devastating emotional experiences in life is a parent confronting the death of their young child. What might be equal to that inner trauma is a child dealing with the death of a parent or sibling.

This coming weekend, Friday, May 3 to Sunday May 5, Camp Good Mourning!, a program that aids children dealing with that overwhelming grief will be at Camp Quinpet.

According to Paul Rubin, executive director of the nonprofit, Long Island-based 501c3 organization, the program provides free “bereavement camp programs for Long Island children 7 to 17.” Also welcomed, are children mourning a member of an extended family who lived with them.

Created six years ago the nonprofit is funded through donations, sponsors and grants.

According to New York Life Foundation, one in 12 children will experience the loss of a parent or sibling by the age of 18. And the foundation has reported that “93% percent of educators agree that childhood grief is a serious problem that deserves more attention from schools, and 87% agree with the statement that ‘over the past five years, it has become more common for students at my school to seek out emotional support from their teachers.’”

In the Foundation’s report it noted that, when teachers were asked how many students each school year typically need their support due to the loss of a loved one, a large majority of educators said at least one student.

The COVID pandemic was especially cruel to children. More statistics from American sociologists in a December 2021 report titled “Hidden Pain” revealed that “among the more than 760,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States in the last 22 months are many parents, custodial grandparents, or other caregivers on whom more than 160,000 children had relied for financial, emotional, and developmental support. Many of these children — aged under 18 — already faced significant social and economic adversity, and these devastating losses can impact their development and success for the rest of their lives.”

The Camp Good Mourning! experience, according to Mr. Rubin, gives children the opportunity to share their “grief story and express their feelings in an emotionally safe, non-judgmental and compassionate community.”

A child’s memorial to always remember. (Credit: Jennifer Biren)

Forty Long Island kids (none from Shelter Island) are expected at Quinipet this coming weekend. The overnight weekend camp will have, according to Mr. Rubin, caring adults to help the kids understand that they don’t have to pretend that everything is all right.  It’s a matter he added, that, “Where being who you are is accepted and it’s O.K. not to be O.K.”

In addition to the standard kid’s camp fare of fun, adventures and team-building exercises, there will be mental health professionals and grief specialists leading age-appropriate, small group sessions. Campers will have an opportunity to share their grief stories from beginning to end, if they want to.

And being Camp Quinipet, there will be opportunities for fishing, volleyball and time to be together for a weekend on a high hill above a beautiful bay, away from the world.