Childhood bereavement is one of society’s most overlooked, least understood yet chronically painful issues. It is also disturbingly common. More than one in nine Americans will lose a parent before age 20. The impact of their loss is profound and enduring, with grieving children too often subject to a distressing array of emotional, psychological and behavioral issues, which can extend well into adulthood.
Fearful of burdening their surviving parent — and growing up in a society that is unnerved by death and uneasy with their grief — kids who lose loved ones get the message early on that people are uncomfortable with their loss, so they suffer in silence. A leading provider of bereavement camps for kids, Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) set out to create a national conversation on childhood grief, raising awareness of the impact of loss and of the opportunity to better support grieving kids and families.
What We Did
To ignite a national dialogue, CZC conducted a first-ever survey of Americans attitudes and behaviors relative to childhood loss, oversampling among adults who had lost a parent growing up. That research was complemented with a survey of CZC parents and campers designed to ascertain the support they received from friends, family, schools, employers and the community at large. The associated media campaign drove all public interest back to the initiative’s dedicated website www.hellogrief.org.
Prior to Comfort Zone Camp’s research, childhood grief had received scant media attention. Focusing on opinion-leading media, coverage included a cover story in the Wall Street Journal’s “Personal Journal” section and a five-minute “Today” show segment that aired three times due to overwhelming response. In six months, hellogrief.org received over 27,500 unique visitors and more than 60,000 visits and added 1,942 new campers and 2,500 volunteers — and as evidenced by reader/viewer response to the media coverage, a national conversation had begun.