Written by Diana Duke, Secretary on Momivate's MotherBoard
What is Koah?
It wasn't until recently that I stumbled upon Camp Koah, a camp for children who have lost a direct family member. The word Koah is derived from a Hebrew word that means "strength." This is fitting since their mission is to help kids find strength together as they navigate the devastating loss of a loved one. They focus on educating campers on how to move through the stages of grief as they create memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
I feel so fortunate to have found this camp to help my children understand their grief as they learn to live without their daddy. I love that it is a safe place where they can gather together and share with others something so terribly heartbreakingly personal, and be able to find “Koah.”
I have pondered what having strength means to me. On numerous occasions, I have shared with others an important phrase that my late husband used to always say: “Kia ka ha,” which, in Maori, means, “Be strong.” This is even engraved in his grave marker. I found it so fitting that the name of this camp coincides with something so personal to our family, something that we share with my husband. It was definitely a tender mercy to me.
My children are ages seven, nine, nine, and eleven. My eleven-year-old was not sure about going, so I did not press him any further as everyone grieves differently. However, my two nine-year-olds wanted very badly to go.
Grief is something that I, as a new widow, have struggled with. Just when I think I have a hold on my feelings of grief, somehow they find a way of resurfacing. If I experience this as an adult, it must be exponentially harder to deal with in their childlike minds. So, of course I jumped at the chance to send my children to Camp Koah.
I eagerly applied, and was sad to find out that all of the slots had been filled. I saw that there was a place I could submit their names for the waiting list. A few months went by and I figured I would just be sure to apply earlier for next year. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a message asking if we were still interested. I quickly responded that we definitely were. They let me know that one slot had opened up, but they felt that they could make room for one more since they were sisters. I was thrilled to let the girls know.
The day came that they were finally able to go. They were so excited. They had never been away from family like this before, and for this long. But, I knew that they would be in good hands. Normally it is a requirement to have lost a direct family member in order to be a counselor. My girls had two young women as their counselors, who were also sisters, and had lost their dad just a year prior, which made relating to them even easier.
While attending camp they were able to listen to firesides, participate in art projects, and service projects. They talked about their loved ones, did meditation, sang, danced, braided each other's hair, played pranks on each other, and played in the water with a giant Slip ‘n Slide. They learned that it’s okay to laugh and enjoy life, even when you’re hurting. They were surrounded by all these kids who had gone through tragedies, and they were able to find this “Koah” together.
Just in the few hours that they’ve been back, they seem so much older, perhaps because they’ve been surrounded by older kids. Or, perhaps parts of their little breaking hearts were able to be healed a little bit more. They can not wait to go next year, and are already making plans with their older brother who wishes that he had gone after hearing the excitement of their week at camp. The girls got phone numbers of their counselors and (parent-permitting) they can keep in touch and text with them. There will even be follow-up events throughout the year, and a larger gathering at Christmas.
What a wonderful experience for my children. Thank you, Camp Koah. You have brought so much joy into our lives. I, as their mother, am able to find strength in knowing that my family is okay as we are able to find balance and continue on, putting one foot in front of the other as we move about our journey in life.
If you would like more information on attentending or donating to Camp Koah, please visit their website at https://www.campkoah.com.
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