Jo lost her soulmate Davide to cancer in January of 2020 – he was aged 45.
Through a monthly bereavement support group, Jo heard about the unique work of AnglicareSA’s Star Bear loss and grief camps.
She attended one of the camps with her two young children in June 2021. Immediately after, Jo knew she wanted to share her own grief journey and support others as a Star Bear volunteer.
“Star Bear helped me to open up to like-minded families who experienced the same or similar emotions for the loss of their loved ones,” Jo says.
“It was a short, but amazing time to reflect and acknowledge the loved one in a supportive and comfortable environment away from day to day-to-day distractions.
“I felt like I could actually grieve without my kids seeing me being vulnerable and upset and was able to share the experience with others.”
Star Bear camps are free weekend camps for bereaved children, young people, and families who have lost a parent, sibling, or other significant person.
Jo says being able to go through the stages of grief with a group was not only helpful for herself, but also for her son and daughter, who were 13 and 11 at the time of Davide’s passing.
“We cried, we listened, and we learned a lot of coping skills and strategies. So I really appreciated the time and space we were given to talk to others – adults with adults, and kids with kids.
“It was like we were speaking the same language. At times, I thought certain emotions were out of the ordinary, but by talking to other adults and mentors, it helped to normalise things for us.
“I love the fact that every child was paired up with a mentor for the weekend and it was great to see them bond and not be afraid to ask questions about grief.
“And being out in the nature and being present in the moment was amazing.”
After the camp, Jo says she was empowered to reach out and help others in need knowing how much Star Bear had enriched her own family’s life.
She says having come from being a camp participant to volunteering at future camps brought her inner peace knowing she can help bring a smile to someone on their grieving journey.
“Following the death of Davide, I thought I had to push through it to get to the other side as the lead up to special days or events was the hardest pain to deal with.
“I soon learned that there is no other side,” Jo explains. “There is no pushing through, but rather there is absorption, adjustment, and acceptance.
“Grief is not something you complete, but rather endure. It is an alteration of your being and seeing things through a new lens – a new definition of self and a new way of living.”
AnglicareSA is looking for volunteers like Jo to join the Star Bear program and make a real difference to the lives of children and their families who have lost a significant family member.
Volunteers can help through a variety of roles:
- Mentor – support one child for the duration of camp
- Rover – assist wherever support is needed
- Group leader – lead activities with breakout groups of children
- Craft – set up and help facilitate several activities
To be a Star Bear volunteer you don’t have to have experienced grief or loss, but you will need some security checks and to complete training modules. AnglicareSA will support you in obtaining these.
To register your interest or to seek further information, please email [email protected]