Circle Week 2019
POSTED 10.15.19 Blog

When I have a chance to connect with Fleur de Lis Camp in some way, whether with the people or the program, I try to take it.  Maybe it’s a reunion (huge thanks to the 90th reunion team!) or simply a drive down the lake road.  Maybe a visit to Kimball Farm (that counts, right?) or a swim in our beloved Laurel Lake.  If I get the chance, I say ‘sign me up’.

How about when you throw in an entire week at Fleur de Lis Camp?  And you are going to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people.  Cooks, counselors, directors, nurses, dishwashers, and grief experts.  Everyone there with one purpose in mind.

Fleur de Lis Camp Circle Week 2019 had one singular focus.  To ‘fill up’ a group of 43 grieving girls.  To fill them with support, fun, love, encouragement, friendship, laughter, listening, food (yes, Sir Eric Haessler, fabulous food), patience, and presence.

Started in 2013 Circle Week has served a community of hundreds of grieving girls in its first seven summers.  Most come from nearby New England but the good word is getting out and girls now come to Circle Week from all over the eastern seaboard and as far away as Oklahoma.  And the staff?  Well, mileage and time zones don’t matter to them.  East coast, West coast, Midwest, Europe, Australia.  Like I said at the top.  Invite them and they will come.

Ladies Jenn, Kate, and Sarah asked me to write up a little something for Laurel Leaves about my time at Fleur de Lis Camp Circle Week 2019.  For me, it felt like success from beginning to end.

Every single thing that makes for the success of Circle Week could be a spotlight subject.  There are not enough hours in the day to replay it all.  So here’s my week in triple time.

Ice breakers, grief camp 101, experiential activities, safety training, field prep, bunk meetings, camper introductions, BIG bus welcome, beaded necklaces, camper swim testing, Circle time, Body Mapping, Invisible String Connections, Rainbow of Coping, Mandala’s, feelings, coping skills, staying connected to loved ones who have died, memories, EP’s (games/campfire, waterfront night, scavenger hunt, life inventory, closing campfire), activities (sewing t-shirt bags, woodworking with Sir Richard, fairy houses, yoga, ceramic flower pots, and more!), meals, booty shaking, handbags, swinging, yummy food, magical cleaning crews, golden dustpan interruptions, packing, bunk goodbyes, slide show (fabulous Lady Pam), rock ceremony, BIG bus goodbye, staff debrief, Lady Clink’s ‘farm’ to table dinner, affirmation bags.

Slowing back down to real-time.  There is one activity that I believe is a great example of the good that Circle Week does.

Here’s how it happened…first for the staff during our training afternoon and then for the oldest girls as a grief activity.

Ellen Dezieck, LISCW (the awesome leader of Circle grief work since 2014) led each group in a personal journaling activity.  The instructions were to remember a loved one who had died.  Participants were to listen to quiet music while writing a journal page specific to their loss.  They used words, drawing, poetry, or letter writing.  Then, when ready, they used modge-podge and colored tissue paper to ‘cover’ the journal entry.

In the end, each small group shared a bit about their journal page.  What the colors signified.  What loved one or loss they chose to honor.  How the activity made them feel.

The activity was powerful for everyone who participated.  Many campers were surprised at how the introspection called up thoughts and feelings, some that had been buried deep.  Some needed to get lost in the music in order to be freed up to feel.  Many embraced the ‘covering up’ of thoughts and feelings and felt it a safe space and place to experience the release of sadness and pain.

What did this activity teach all of us campers and staff alike?  The same things we worked hard to impart to our grieving girls during each thoughtfully planned, age-appropriate, grief activity throughout the week.

The girls learned that each person’s grief is unique to the individual. That you likely have feelings of loss that are common to another grieving person’s feelings.  That when you experience and express sadness or anger due to grief, it helps to hear someone say that they can relate, that they have felt that way, or to have someone simply validate your feelings by listening.  A lovely byproduct of the activity is that it allows each member of that group to heal in some way by simply sharing and listening.  It allows that group to become a community of grief and support.  A group that they will likely never forget.  Memories of a group which may help them when they experience hard times related to grief in the future.

This activity, to me, was a powerful example of the good of Fleur de Lis Camp Circle Week 2019.

I’ll end with this.  During our last night together, around the campfire in the midfield, we were all asked to share one thing that was special to each of us about the week.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, Circle Campers have taught us that it is a friend who chooses to share our pain and support us with a gentle and tender hand.  It is a friend who can be silent with us in a moment of sadness and confusion.  A friend who can stay with us while we grieve. A friend who can tolerate not knowing and not fixing.  That is a friend who truly cares. Circle campers of 2019, thank you for sharing your laughter, compassion and courage.” (adapted from Henri Nouwen quote)

– Grief Team Closing Campfire 2019

Ellen Dezieck, LISCW; Toni LaMonica, MSW; Sarah Coburn, LCSW; Robin Van Ness Nelson

If you are interested in learning more about Fleur de Lis Camp Circle Week, how to volunteer in 2020, how to donate or help during the off-season, please reach out.  If you want to know more about what it’s like to be a volunteer I am happy to share my experience with you. Email anytime:


Until we meet again!

Lady Robin Van Ness Nelson