Overview: One in seven American children experiences the death of a loved one before age 20, and few adults know how to help deal with the grief that follows. ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GRIEF CAMP highlights the work of professional counselors and volunteers at Camp Erin, a three-day program that encourages grieving children ranging in age from six to 17 to share their feelings and memories of lost loved ones with their peers. The camp, founded by baseball star Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen in memory of Erin Metcalf, a fan who died of cancer at 17, takes place in 43 locations nationwide.
Showing the indelible effect that sharing, friendship and emotional support can have on children dealing with extraordinary loss, the moving documentary ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GRIEF CAMP debuted Monday, 04.14 at 8:00pm exclusively on HBO. Director Irene Taylor Brodsky’s previous HBO credits include the Peabody Award-winning documentary “Hear and Now,” “Saving Pelican 895” and “The Final Inch,” which received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short
Expectations: Grief – a subject no one wants to encounter, but we all get our turn dealing with it. It is handled differently by each and every one of us. Factors like religious faith and life experiences help shape how we deal with the monumental losses we face. As if it wasn’t hard enough, children in grief is distressing to all. They may not be, at those young ages, entrenched in religious doctrine to aid them or just may be facing the loss of a loved one for the first time and conflicted with what they should or could feel.
This brief 37-minute documentary shows what happens at what is called a Grief Camp for youths. The emotions ought to be quite raw and on the surface. This writer will have more thoughts after viewing. This provided clip should easily set the tone for what is to be discussed.
Gut Reaction: I am not going to dwell on the feeling of grief. I won’t speak of mine or even the grief of the children seen in this documentary. ONE LAST HUG manages not to leave you with the feeling at all. Even though, it is the reason that 41 Camp Erin’s exist in the country and even though the camera witnesses these counselors and children dealing with it at the end you accept or reaffirm that it is just a process that must be.
The staff of Camp Erin, through exercises and games let the children stand on equal ground and talk through their anger, confusion and sadness. But, there is no great shocking revelation here. It is a well done piece. It doesn’t dwell or pry too deeply into the stories behind the deaths; it does give equal screen time to a number of campers. The key seems to be to show the commonalities between the kids and to let them bond as kids do and to feed them the acceptance that they can talk it all out.
In Conclusion: Kudos go to the Moyer Foundation, Camp Erin and all the staff for the time and caring they employ to help ease the grief, solidify the good memories and help a child to move on. Well done. Take in the documentary if you want to see healing hands at work.
HBO air dates remaining are 04.17 at 8:30am; 04.19 at 4:00pm; 04.23 at 2:45pm, 04.27 at 8:45am and 04.29 at 5:40am. You can also find it on HBOGo.