This week in Malibu children ages 8 to 16 have come from cities around the country to spend a week at "Experience Camp."
The camp specializes in bereavement for children who've lost a parent or sibling. Along with swimming, arts and crafts, and team sports, the kids take part in sharing circles where they are encouraged to talk about their grief.
Carrie Fleming, a 12-year-old girl from Sierra Madre, lost her mother to Leukemia when she was 9.
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"I remember her last words to me," Fleming told the girls in her camp sharing circle. "She said, 'My smart, beautiful girl, never stop trying and don't give up.'"
Fleming said being with other kids who've gone through the same thing helps her cope with her grief.
Thirteen-year-old Kenya O'Choa from Victorville lost her dad two years ago.
"It feels like you’re dying, and you can’t breathe and your systems are not working," O'Choa said. "You feel like giving up."
Dozens of adult volunteers work with professional counselors to guide the kids through the grieving process, like Lisa LeBlanc, who lost her own dad when she was 8.
“I was reading one of the girl’s books today and it said 'Daddy loved his Princess,' and I was like 'That was me,'" she said. "Just that right there, it's like you can show them that you can make it out the other side and be OK."
The camp's director said all activities are geared toward letting the kids know that grief takes many forms.
“We want them to know that it's okay to go from laughing to crying," Sara Deren said. "We want to encourage them here that it’s okay to feel both things. There’s a balance between feeling sad and feeling happy and sometimes that all happens together, and it’s all normal."
If you'd like to learn more about the non-profit camp, visit www.manitouexperience.org.