A Family Bereavement Camp: Emerging Themes Regarding Its Impact on the Lives of Bereaved Parents and Siblings
Carawan, Melissa Anne
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BACKGROUND: Within the grief literature, family bereavement camps have yet to be researched in a combined population of bereaved parents and siblings. Camp Sol is a weekend retreat for families who have experienced the death of a child/sibling. The goal of the current study is to establish areas reported by parents and sibling campers as being impacted by their experience at camp in hopes of identifying standardized measures that can be implemented in the future evaluation process. This will provide future researchers the ability to quantitatively evaluate the overall efficacy of a family bereavement camp among bereaved parents and siblings. SUBJECTS: Camp Sol evaluations were collected post-camp over the span of five and a half years totaling 656 evaluations. Parents comprised 50.2% of the sample, where the majority of them spoke English versus Spanish (81.4% vs. 18.5%). The children comprised 49.8% of the sample and ranged from the age of 4 to 19. METHOD: Data coding and analysis followed a mixed-methods design, specifically the convergent parallel design, which utilizes both qualitative and quantitative data. The constant Comparative Method (CCM) was used to analyze and code the qualitative portion of the evaluation to arrive at core themes. A variety of quantitative analyses (independent t-test, ANOVA, MANOVA) was used to analyze potential differences between groups according to family role, language, and age. RESULTS: The prominent themes that emerged from the qualitative data were social support, communication, continuing bonds as a coping skill, increased knowledge of the grief process, adjustment, family interaction, and camp environment. Quantitative results revealed that fathers rated the Understanding Index significantly lower than unspecified parents, and siblings ' ages 8 to 11 and 12 years and older had significantly higher mean scores on communication than siblings ' ages 2 to 7. DISCUSSION: This study is the first to research both parent and sibling benefits of a family bereavement camp, which identified the importance of non-pathological constructs (e.g. social support, communication, family relationships) while providing richness of information about how a uniquely structured camp may facilitate positive adjustment and coping for entire bereaved families. The camp structure may provide cost effective and accessible grief intervention for bereaved families (English and Spanish) in a safe and supportive environment. Future research would benefit from the use of pre- and/or post- intervention measures assessing for social functioning and mental health, as well as the implementation of a control group to allow discrimination of participants' outcomes.