“My brother Paul always made me feel like I was on the top of the world,” said Bella, age 15. “He saw my potential. He wanted me to be the best person, the best Bella, I could be.”

After Paul died at the age of 15 from a seizure, Bella showed no emotion. She didn’t cry. She was numb.

Bella’s mother, Clover, reached out to The Elizabeth Hospice for help. She enrolled Bella in their summer grief camp which combines grief-related activities with traditional camp fun. Camp Spero is open to all grieving children (ages 7 to 17) in the community and is offered free of charge.

“My favorite part about camp was the ceremony at the lake,” said Bella. “There was music playing and we were all crying. But it was a good cry. I was in this community of people who were vulnerable but strong because we were together. That felt like magic.”

After camp, Bella joined the Teen Grief Support Group offered by The Elizabeth Hospice. “We talk about our life. We talk about all aspects of grief. We go off each other’s thoughts and give each other advice.

“There are some parts about grief that are bad and some that are even worse. We get into those deeper parts. It’s great to be in a space with people who are going through the same thing that you are.”

“Before attending group and camp, I couldn’t talk about the day I found out that Paul had passed. I pretended it never happened. Now I can share the story. I look back at it as a memory, not a nightmare.”

Bella was invited by Samira Moosavi, Children’s Bereavement Manager for The Elizabeth Hospice, to participate in the Camp Spero Teen Advisory Council. This group of teens who previously attended the organization’s summer grief camp are helping to design the alumni camp experience.

“We meet in a big conference room and brainstorm ideas about every aspect of camp. At first I thought some things about camp were insignificant. But I don’t feel that way anymore. Everything matters. It feels great using my voice to help other kids who may be too self-conscious to speak for themselves.”

“I feel grief changed me in a way that nothing could ever have changed me,” Bella continued. “Yes, grief is terrible, traumatizing and heartbreaking. But it made me stronger. I think Paul would be very proud of me.”