Sunday, August 17, 2014

Camp Erin Weekend: Children's Grief Camp

The last three days I spent with fifty-nine children and a ton of adults just twenty-four miles from my home at Camp Erin. The children had all lost someone important to them- mostly parents, secondly siblings but also others of importance. Camp Erin is free to campers and run by donations and the Moyer Foundation.

I can't give any specific stories due to confidentiality, but it was an interesting and emotional experience. It's hard to suppress tears when you're seeing kids dropped off by one parent or seeing the pictures of their lost loved ones. I would've liked to have gone to a camp like that when I was a kid. The experience of being around a bunch of others in the same boat and talking about it is huge for those kids.

Going into the weekend, I was fairly apprehensive- mostly because I'm never sure how I'm going to react, and usually if someone else starts crying, I do too. I feel like we're there for them and having my feelings bubble to the surface is not very helpful. As well, I'm very introverted and really don't enjoy large groups or being around people all the time. Most of the other volunteers were teachers or counselors, so they were a little more prepared.

There are various roles for volunteers- Big Buddies (you stay in the cabin with the kids) and a lot of logistics. I was assisting the clinical leads (counselors) along with another girl for the teenagers. Having struggled with controlling emotions my entire life, I didn't feel that the Big Buddy role would be very safe if I were trying to be supportive of the kids. There's a lot going on behind the scenes, but I think the Big Buddy role is probably the most personally fulfilling (and tiring) for volunteers.

It seems like we address loss differently than we did thirty years ago. Back then, it was just have a funeral and go on with your life. At least now people are better about talking about things, and there's different ways to heal.

I feel like the experience should not have been about me but it brought up a lot of emotions again. At one point, watching a boy hide in his sweatshirt and hunch up and cry, I just could not help but start crying - identifying with them in the way that they try to hide their emotions, their tears - trying to move on, but still remembering that someone is missing.

I find it embarrassing that I'm still sad or apt to just start crying when I least expect it. Losing my dad is a problem forever. The loss that I have is like a scab that's ripped off and then I feel like I'm right back at that place again- where the hole is there - you can't breathe - the tears are rolling - and there's nowhere to hide. I still never know what is going to set it off again.

Sitting there watching the kids, I felt like I should probably be in some sort of grief program. I realised that I've never gone to a counselor for it, or to a grief support group, or a camp. I've been figuring out how to deal with it by myself since I was seven. And I'm still dealing with it in the same way I did as a child- withdrawal, hiding, embarrassment, introversion. It's strange how we are the same forever. 

On Saturday afternoon, I was sitting with my feet in the creek, listening to the water, writing in my journal. I'd been wondering lately what my dad would've thought of Oregon. Would he have liked biking with me? Would he go camping? What would it be like to have a dad-adult conversation with him?

It was a hard weekend. I don't cry that much anymore, but when it starts, the deluge is hard to stop. I don't think I helped a whole lot with kids this weekend (except in a behind the scenes way), but I think I ended up learning some things about myself. I might try to find a way to keep helping children in grief on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Nodak Visitor

Blogger is all whacked up and won't let me see the photos I uploaded. Jessie came to town last week. Aka The Basement Bitch. She was a college student who rented a room in my mom's basement for a couple years in Minot. We became friends when I was visiting my mom for about 6 weeks between my time in New Zealand and my time in Germany. She and I had a busy week--- and she also got to hang out with Carrie and Justin. Her first few days were spent on the Oregon coast with friends and then she took the train back to Portland. I picked her up and we headed off to Powell's books, where we promptly ended up in the "Lusty" section. They're busy remodeling Powell's, so I didn't know where anything was at. Yeah, that explains it... In other unrelated Portland weirdness, we saw three guys dressed up like the Ghostbusters when we first pulled out of the train station. Unfortunately we were too dumbfounded to get our cameras out in time to snap a photo. Later when I was trying to find the Small Press Books section in Powell's, I stopped an employee, who was wearing a ghostbusters shirt... I got all excited thinking there was a convention or something. But alas it was just a strange coincidence. Darn. The second day, we trekked up the St Johns Bridge (where the Real Hippies live) and over to the Pittock Mansion for some excellent city views. Lazy Sunday 16-mile bike ride (Jessie wanted to go for it!)-- was the culmination of the weekend. It was a very sweet visit...

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Best Fourth Of July

On the Fourth of July, I was so tired I thought I might crawl into bed at 9PM. I was inside working on the house when Carrie drove over to pick up Oatie. She noticed that there were fireworks going on all over Portland. Quite a lot across the street from my house and really going on in 360 degrees as we spun around. She walked back over and we sat outside with our chairs and the dogs, and then walked down the street to catch a phenomenal street show just a few blocks from our home. People were gathered all along the sidewalks watching. So we shared in the fireworks and took Bailey and Oatie. They both enjoyed it and people were amazed they weren't spooked by the noises. Bailey practically skipped home- I think he thought it was such a treat to be out so late. The next day he didn't get up til about 1PM after his late night.

Fireworks are illegal in Portland, but today I had a police officer in today and asked him about it. He said, "As long as they aren't doing anything stupid, we leave them alone." I think that is sort of the mantra of life in Portland. Like parking your cars on the wrong side of the road. Or driving a little fast. Or smoking weed.

It was a good Fourth.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Living for yourself

For the last several days, I've been off Facebook. The first day after my departure, I was working hard on my house- installing new hardware in the kitchen, painting, organizing and whatnot. I thought about sharing photos with everyone, showing all the things that I was accomplishing. Then I thought how nice it was to be doing things for myself, for my own satisfaction. I wondered what kind of society we were becoming- all these people who want accolades for everything they've done. Importance measured in the number of likes you receive on your posts and pictures. How valid is it anyway? And is it creating a society where we do things for the approval of others rather than for our own internal pleasure? Strangely I realised today that I had not had any urges to go on Facebook, that I hadn't even really thought about it in a day or two. It's feels good.