St. Joseph’s counseling staff set up our annual Healing Camp for 16 Lakota students who have lost a loved one through death this past year. Four of the children were grieving the death of a parent, and several more the death of brothers and sisters.
One of the sad tragedies of life on Indian Reservations is how often, due to accidents or illness, people die so young.
I was scheduled to lead a few of the prayers, but when a couple of staff who planned to help couldn’t show up, I was paired up with a third grader for the day. Babies that Jhett would have known as a sister and niece died at birth within a couple of months of each other.
Some of the day’s activities were fun icebreakers. Other rituals were designed to let the child say what they wanted about death, and ask questions. The two hands-on ceremonies that drew the most emotion were writing a letter to their deceased loved ones and burning it, offering prayers up to heaven, and making a red prayer tie with their name on it and tying it to a tree in remembrance.
We also had a couple of art and craft projects. I’m not so creative at those, but I let the student take the lead. Asking questions about what he was drawing was a way to open up the conversation about his experience of loss. We had some time in the gym after lunch to shoot baskets and play volleyball to burn off some energy. Our Native American drum group joined us at the end of the day for a prayer song and handshakes of support all around.