An Inside Look at the #BestWeekEver: Day 4 of Camp!

[The following is part four of a five-part series of live-from-camp updates written in August 2023 by Experience Camps founder and CEO Sara Deren. We’re excited to share the camp experience with you.]


“Broken things can be healed. It’s just going to look a little different.” – Brie Overton

We have officially crossed the midway point in the week, and it feels like we’ve really hit our stride. In these few short days, campers have learned their way around camp, they know the sleeping habits of their bunkmates, and they can anticipate the sequence of the day. The people and place have become familiar, and the disorientation that comes with new beginnings has faded.

This is especially true when it comes to grief activities. Coming into camp, there is a lot of anxiety about the prospect of opening up to strangers. Throughout the week, we create a space for sharing and processing grief and then gently invite our campers to step into it. Today’s clinical activity was perhaps a less gentle version than others.

Smashing plates, building resilience

Campers were each given a ceramic plate and a box of markers and asked to write or draw the feelings about grief that are hard to talk about. What does your grief feel like? How did it feel when you found out your person died? How does it make you feel when someone says the wrong thing? Campers got to work drawing, and within minutes many of their plates were covered in words. There were so many feelings…and so much pain that kept pouring out of them.

A child at grief camp decorates feelings plate

Then they were asked to flip their plates over and write down the hurtful things that people say. When asked to share some examples out loud, a lot of hands went up.

“Why are you still sad?”
“They’re in a better place now.”
“She would want you to be happy.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Man up.”

The camper sitting next to me had a younger brother who died. She wrote down, “You were nine when it happened.” I asked her what that meant and she explained, “Well, I’m ten now, so people say I should get over it.”

Once they were finished, they Ziploc-bagged the plates, held them up above their heads, and with a ferocious yell, smashed their plates on the ground. The symbolism of obliterating that pain may seem obvious, but what happened next was not.

Girl throws her plate of feelings in anger

Putting the pieces back together

Counselors scooped up the bags of broken pieces and brought them back up to the porch, where our Clinical Directors, Brie and Karen, walked the campers through what had just happened to their plates.

First, they were smashed into a lot of pieces. Then, our counselors helped us scoop them back up. They supported us. Now, we’re going to put them back together. It’s not going to look the same. There will be some sharp edges and it won’t fit together the same way it once did. But your pieces will be mixed with other pieces, and the newly-formed shape will be something beautiful.

Then each person chose two of their broken pieces, and together with a bowl of modge podge, they arranged their feelings into a mosaic representing their collective grief, their camp community, and their healing.

Plate pieces with feelings glued together in grief camp activity

The rest of the day included camp classics like Capture the Flag and a College League sports loop, followed by the much-anticipated Talent Show later tonight. This is one of my favorite camp activities, as we define “talent” very broadly here and you never know what unique skills we’ll discover.

More on that tomorrow — our last full day of camp.





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