Mattie Bess is not new to grief. She has been embracing it since her father passed away in 2005 when she was just 13 years old. Her mom was concerned she might not be able to give Mattie the support she needed so they got involved with The Healing Center, a grief support community for adults, children and families that offers individual and group support with informal events and social networks. Her counselor at The Healing Center recommended that Mattie also attend Camp Erin, a weekend bereavement camp. Mattie found other teens at both The Healing Center and Camp Erin who could relate to her. The counselor at her high school just didn’t get it and her friends were supportive but often didn’t know what to say or do.
She found friends facing similar challenges.
A couple of months after Mattie’s dad passed away she found an old roll of film she sent to get developed. When she got the photos back, there were pictures of her dad on the film. Her friends who were with her didn’t know what to say as Mattie started to cry. Mattie has found that her experience at both The Healing Center and Camp Erin has helped her make friends who understand her and who she feels she can support as well. She enjoys her friendships with others who have “been through it.” When Mattie finished Camp Erin, she thought how cool it would be to come back as an adult and help other kids who needed support.
Now Mattie is giving back as a volunteer – one that can really relate to the campers.
Not only has Mattie come back to Camp Erin as an adult volunteer, but she is now working as the Program Coordinator at The Healing Center. She got community support when she needed it and knows how much it helps, so she wants to give back….in a big way.
What Mattie refers to as the best part of the healing journey is how she has learned not to have the death of her father always be a bad thing in her life. She has learned to remember and celebrate him, not just grieve him. “You can’t escape the fact that they aren’t around anymore, but you can go on.”
When Mattie finished Camp Erin, she thought how cool it would be to come back as an adult and help other kids who needed her support.
While volunteering Mattie was asked by her campers why she volunteered at camp. She likes sharing her story and that the kids can relate to her as someone who has been there and now is on the other side wanting to help them.
As we were talking, Mattie expressed why she likes working at The Healing Center, “The children come through the door whole, but at that moment they don’t see it, and we help them find the wholeness again.”