Grieving the death of a loved one is never easy, and many times it takes professional therapy to begin the healing. Or in the case of some teens, a trip to a special bereavement camp.
Time for Teens, the brainchild of Laraine Gordon, a licensed social worker in Southampton, is a four-day retreat designed for children 12-19, an age group that Gordon said resists using traditional talk therapy methods.
Teenagers trying to cope with the loss of a loved one can express their grief by acting out in school or becoming withdrawn, said Gordon, who started the East End camp in 2007.
Gordon's intensive psychodrama method offers more visual and physical ways to express the grief and confusion after the death of a sibling, parent, grandparent or other loved one. She often uses role-playing (Gordon is an actor as well) and creative outlets, such as art, to help teens express their grief.
Often, young people can keep it together for a while, but eventually they need help dealing with their grief, Gordon said.
"Some parents say they don't want to rock the boat, but I can tell you from experience, the boat is already rocking," Gordon said. "You just don't see it yet."
Someone who knows that firsthand is Lee George, whose husband was murdered in Antigua four years ago. She relocated to Southampton with her three children, and as they settled in and started school, she saw one of her sons acting out in ways that were unusual for him. George had seen a poster about the Time for Teens program and sought Gordon's help.
"We met her at a time when my family was in crisis," George said. "Even though the crisis was two years before."
While the work the teens do at the camp can bring out raw emotions, it is done under the watchful eye of Gordon and another experienced therapist.
"She creates a safe and fun environment to do the work with their peers," George said. "The greatest healing happens with their peers -- with each other."
George's son Dylan, 18, a senior at Hampton Bays High School who has been through the program for three summers, said it was the most important part of his healing process.
"When someone you love dies, you feel alone, and the camp gives you a sense of belonging to a group," Dylan George said. "It's a better place to be. Rather than be alone and deal with those emotions yourself."
Gordon agrees. Her 17-year-old sister died in a car accident when she was 12.
"You need someone to go to with all that pain," she said. "Grief catapults you into growing up."
This year's camp is Aug. 6-9 in Southampton. It's not all about therapy, though. In past years, activities included swimming, yoga and volleyball.
Dylan George will be a camper turned volunteer this year.
"I bring the experience of being there, and knowing what they are going through," he said.
A place to heal
Laraine Gordon charges nominal fees for the bereavement camp, but throughout the year she does fundraising to pay for costs associated with the summer program and year-round events she has for the teens.
Time for Teens will hold a benefit May 19 at 7 p.m. featuring entertainer Judy Carmichael at the Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane. Tickets are $75 and include wine and hors d'oeuvres. There will also be a silent auction.
To purchase tickets, visit time4teens.org or call Gordon at 631-338-7258.