Death isn't an image that comes to mind when you think of childhood, yet childhood bereavement is far more common than most people think.

More than a million children nationwide will lose a parent by age 15. Many more will lose siblings, other relatives, caregivers, and close friends. These profound losses affect daily lives, academic and social functioning, and growth toward adulthood.

Camp Healing Hearts, a free overnight grief camp for children ages 5-18 who have experienced the death of a loved one, will be held May 19-20. The registration deadline is May 1.

The annual camp is hosted by Kaleidoscope Grief Center, a program of Methodist Family Health. Held at Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock, Camp Healing Hearts unites families in the grief and healing process.

Daylan Houston and his mother, Sarah Ann Mashburn, of East End (Saline County) are among those families. They found comfort and help after Daylan’s older brother, Aaron, contracted meningitis and died at age 13.

“Grief is like riding a rollercoaster,” Mashburn said. “You are up and down and all over the place, feeling sad and angry,” and then pausing to cherish fond memories.

Kaleidoscope Grief Center and Camp Healing Hearts provided understanding and stability in a difficult time. Daylan, who has attended several camp sessions, considers Camp Healing Hearts “awesome.” He especially enjoys the games and the crafts that are created with his big brother in mind.

“Grief can be a very isolating experience, particularly for children,” said Therapist and Camp Director Janet Breen. “Camp Healing Hearts provides a safe environment where children and their families can develop coping skills both individually and within a community of others. The work of play encourages a new sense of normalcy and allows children to find a voice for their grief.”

The 24-hour experience of Camp Healing Hearts begins at 5 p.m. Friday, May 19, and concludes at 5 p.m. Saturday, May 20. Caregiver participation is required.

Campers participate in therapeutic activities, including “Heart to Heart” sessions and a candlelight memorial service, and traditional camp activities like a making s’mores around a campfire, arts and crafts, fishing, swimming and canoeing.

Learn more about Camp Healing Hearts here, or call (501) 537-3991.