Children throw notecards in the fire one by one. Each one bears the name a loved-one who committed suicide, such as fathers, mother, brothers and sisters. Each card ignites the fire, adding a flash of light as the paper crumples. When each child has had their turn, they embrace in a group hug—some crying, some smiling, together in both grief and healing.
Tomorrow, the 72 children, teens, and young adults attending Comfort Zone Camp’s three-day suicide-bereavement camp in rural New Jersey, as well as the parents who accompanied them and the “big buddies” with whom the kids are paired, will pack up and return home. The hope is they’ll leave feeling emotionally lighter than when they arrived, says Lynne Hughes, who founded Comfort Zone Camp more than 20 years ago to give grieving children a place to open up and heal from their losses.
“If you never tell your story, grief doesn’t go anywhere; it just hangs out on your shoulder with you,” Hughes says. “Telling your story will de-power it. You’re going toward it. Mourning is the intentional act of going toward the grief.”