“It kind of makes me feel like I’m not the only one that has lost a loved one,” said Malachi Weaver during the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors’ Good Grief Camp.
More than 150 people attended the camp and Survivors Seminar Friday and Saturday on Fort Benning. Participants ranged in ages from pre-kindergartners to teenagers to adults, but they all shared one thing in common — they had lost a loved one on active duty.
Malachi was 7 when his father died. Master Sgt. Davy Weaver was killed May 18, 2008, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Afghanistan.
During the camp, the children not only talked about their feelings but also had the chance just to be kids, said Tina Saari, a camp facilitator.
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“A lot of the time, the kids are the forgotten grievers,” Saari said. “They think they’re going to be OK. We hear from them all the time that they don’t cry in front of Mom; they don’t let Mom know they’re upset. A lot of times, the kids are trying to be strong for the adults. This is a safe place for the kids to know they’re not alone.”
Designed to help people learn coping skills and build support systems, it’s the second year the Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp has come to Fort Benning.
“(Children) definitely grieve differently than adults,” Saari said. “It’s not long periods of time. It’s shorter spurts and often alone.”
The camp ended as survivors celebrated their loved ones’ lives by sending up balloons with notes attached.
As one 5-year-girl said — the balloon was going to see her father and angels.