By Michael Howell
Grief over the death of a loved one is something every human being will have to experience in his or her lifetime. It is a naturally occurring human response to loss. But getting through it can be difficult. It can become disabling, even overwhelming, and leave a person feeling like they are drowning in a dark sea. Without some sort of help in those situations a person, even a generally healthy person, can succumb to hopelessness and despair.
According to Tina Barrett, EdD, co-founder and executive director of Tamarack Grief Resource Center (Tamarack) in Missoula, there is no single solution for helping someone through the grief process. Every person is different, every person is unique, and there are a myriad of pathways through the labyrinth of grief. At Tamarack the staff works hard to provide every sort of opportunity for healing and they offer it to people of all ages.
Founded in 2008, Tamarack has become the most comprehensive grief resource center in Western Montana. Its grief specialists offer individual, couple, family and group counseling services for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The non-profit center also specializes in “bereavement camps” for youth, teens and adults that focus on the healing power of nature and the outdoors. Dr. Barrett is a nationally respected specialist in outdoor-based grief support programs.
Some of the programs developed under her direction include “A Camp to Remember” Day Camp; “A Camp to Remember” Flathead Youth Camp; and “A Camp to Remember” Family Camp. Tamarack also sponsors a Women’s Rendezvous at Flathead Lake, a Men’s River Retreat in the Missoula area, a Teen Wild Retreat, and Mini-Camps in Missoula and Kalispell.
“A Camp to Remember” Youth Camp at Flathead Lake, established in 1997, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It offers kids from the ages of 8 to 13 years old unique opportunities for grief work and commemorative activities. Under the guidance of professionals with expertise in bereavement and outdoor activities, grieving and remembering are balanced with a healthy dose of traditional camp fun: swimming, canoeing, kayaking, campfires, games, singing, arts and crafts, treasure hunts, nature walks, and “secret pals.”
Tamarack also sponsors a Peers-As-Leaders (PALs) program. Many campers return year after year, acting as mentors to those attending camp for the first time. Experienced campers in high school can participate as PALs, helping out with younger campers. They do such things as supervising youth cabins during staff council, reading to campers at night, teaching campfire songs, mentoring a young “buddy” at meals or in activities, organizing arts and crafts workshops, leading active games, preparing camp rituals, and assisting with meal preparation. It is a great opportunity to develop leadership skills.
To become a PAL a teen must be a responsible, enthusiastic, positive role model with strong leadership skills and past Tamarack camp or teen retreat experience.
Camps and overnight retreats have also been developed for adult women and men. Mini-camps for elementary aged kids that can be hosted in any community are also being developed.
Tamarack also offers urgent response counseling to schools and agencies and through its Grief Institute it provides education and training for the whole community in dealing with issues related to grief. It offers interactive, informational community workshops and professional seminars throughout the region.
Dr. Barrett is especially excited about the center’s new location. Still in Missoula, Tamarack has moved from its location on busy Orange Street to a quieter spot at 405 S. 1st Street W, near the river. Formerly a private residence, the historic building is very warm and inviting. It has much more space than the former building for conference rooms and private counseling rooms as well as room for a gathering of parents and children. It has a small yard and a garden. It has ample parking and is a short walk from the downtown. A grand opening celebration of the move is planned for June 21 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Tamarack Grief Resource Center serves all of western Montana, including the Bitterroot Valley. Tamarack also has grief specialists working in Kalispell and Browning. Anyone wanting more information about the grief resource center can call 541-8472 or visit the website: TamarackGriefResourceCenter.org.