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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Bringing Comfort and Peace

The immense pressure and overwhelming feelings that I have been feeling to know that I was going to have to write this is why I have put it off. I sat down a few times over the last week to write, but just couldn't do it, but here goes.

Ever since Ryan passed away in September it has changed our family. It has changed me. I now try to focus on my relationships with others especially my family members, both immediate and extended, to strengthen them so there is never any question the love I have for them. As one of the “in-laws” I feel like the last few months and some of the experiences we had in those first days and weeks after Ryan’s death have brought me closer to the siblings than ever before. I am grateful for the bond that we now have and will continue to develop.

Another thing I have focused on in the last few months is the importance of pictures, especially of my family. At Ryan’s funeral, I loved the gorgeous family pictures that there were of Tiffany, Ryan, and the girls. It brought so much peace to look at those pictures and see their eternal family.

In October, for the first time in years, I got nice professional pictures taken of my kids (I had to take down 4 year old pictures to hang my new ones in my living room). I am so grateful for those pictures every day that I look at them and see the “Families are Forever” underneath them.

I still need to get the picture with Chuck, me, and the kids printed to add to the wall.

As I have thought about Ryan and how I can serve him, I think of Brooklyn and Zelda, his sweet daughters. As they grow and learn about their dad I think of how they will continue to grieve and also feel comfort.

I found an organization that was founded here in Richmond called Comfort Zone Camp. Their mission is - Comfort Zone provides grieving children with a voice, a place and a community in which to heal, grow and lead more fulfilling lives.

I was so excited to find them and be able to volunteer with them. They provide weekend long camps free of charge to grieving children. Comfort Zone Camp is a nonprofit 501(c)3 bereavement camp that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver. The free camps include confidence building programs and age-based support groups that break the emotional isolation grief often brings. Comfort Zone Camps are offered to children 7-17, and are held year-round across the Country. We have offices in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. Read here about how camp helps the grieving children.

I contacted them and met with their volunteer coordinator to find a way for me to help them. There happened to be a camp coming up in Richmond a few weeks after I first contacted them. There is a lot of prep work that goes into each camp, so I decided that I could help with camp prep. I went twice for a few hours each time to prepare camp materials.

The first day I went I helped organize and inventory their camp t-shirts that are for each camper and big buddy (an adult volunteer that is assigned to each camper so that there is a 1:1 ratio to insure each child has a good experience).

I also organized other tubs of materials that they take to camp for craft time and campfire programs to make sure there are enough of each item for the campers.

The second week that I went I helped prepare the name tags, camp schedule, and camp map for each person.

As I prepared the packets, I was using the list of campers that included their names, the individual they lost (mom, dad, brother, sister), the cause of the loss, and the age they were at the time of loss. All of this information is very important to be able to make sure the child is paired with the most compatible big buddy. I became a bit overwhelmed looking at that list and those children who have felt so much heartache so early in their lives.

I feel so fortunate that organizations such as these are out there to help our Brooklyn and Zelda as they learn and grow through the grieving process. I hope that I will be able to volunteer with them again. They have camps in Virginia and California, as well as a few other states. When I first did the research, there were tentative events located in North Carolina, but do not see them on the website now. There are so many ways that you can raise money to help provide an opportunity for a camper to attend camp. If you know someone that you think might benefit from attending Comfort Zone Camp (or another similar one in your area), please consider sending them information. Word of mouth is how this program can benefit more children. 

I am so grateful for Ryan. I am so grateful for his example of love and patience. I enjoyed the opportunity to serve in honor of him, especially this year as we also celebrated his life. Every time I have heard the song O Holy Night this Christmas season, I have reflected on the day of Ryan’s funeral, when that song was sung, and the wonderful feelings of peace that I felt. That has always been my favorite Christmas song and now it has even more meaning. 

From the end of the song:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Thank you Ryan for reminding me to always love one another and for the reminder that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what can bring us peace.


  1. What a cool program! Sometimes I can't believe how many different kind of service organizations there are... Grief, bras... Remember the mustache one from last year? Great job and I LOVE your picture in front of the sign

  2. this is so perfect Ashley! I'm sure all those wonderful kids appreciated your service! love you!

  3. ash...what a beautiful service...so perfect. I need to always read these with a glass of water, I get so dehydrated from all the tears...love you sis!

  4. I just realized I never commented from this last year! I love you ashley, and love this service you gave to my sweet husband. I love you, and I love my sweetie, Ryan, so so so much.

  5. Hahaha. I just posted as garrett... this is Tiffany