Experiences for Grieving Children feat. Sara Deren with Experience Camps


Losing a parent is a devastating and life-changing event for any child to experience. Unfortunately, society is terrified of any conversations about death and it often gets brushed aside, often leaving children ill equipped for the difficult task of processing their grief. Joining us today on the Small Business Origins Podcast is Sara Deren, who founded Experience Camps. Their mission is to change grief culture, educate the adults to provide meaningful support to grieving children while normalizing grief, and providing a support system for children who have experienced the death of a parent or parents. Sara shares what motivated her to start Experience Camps, and how it has developed since its inception. She goes on to explain why she approaches it as a business, with a strong sense of purpose as the force driving it forward. This is a very personal episode for John as he shares how the loss of his father as a teenager has shaped him, and why he believes that grief looks different for every person. We also discuss the cost of attending the camp (it’s free!), how you can be a part of it, what the process and activities are like, and what resources they offer. Finally, we discuss their need for funding and volunteers (especially men) before we leave you with the important task of checking in on people who are grieving, no matter how long it’s been.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Welcoming today’s guest, Sara Deren.
  • Why Sara believes that we are living in one of the most impactful and important times in history.
  • Why we’ve advanced more in the past 20-30 years than any other time in human history.
  • A brief overview of Sara’s background and what drew her to creating Experience Camps.
  • How Experience Camps has grown over the years.
  • How the organization’s collective experiences and shared ‘why’ defines them.
  • Why non-profit organizations are exactly the same as any other business.
  • John shares his experience of losing his father at only **16 years old.
  • What it takes to go to Experience Camps and how children who can’t afford it can go.
  • How loss is normalized at the camp and why everyone’s experience of grief is different.
  • What you can expect from the Experience Camp process. 
  • Why Experience Camp consists predominantly of camp activities with a supplementary element of clinically informed grief support.
  • Why grief is an ongoing process that hurts for the rest of your life.
  • The importance of educating all adults working with children on how to handle grief.
  • Their mission to build a grief-smart society and shift the culture of grief for children.
  • The importance of normalizing grief and death.
  • Why Experience Camp is free and the resources they provide to help children get there.
  • Their plea for funding and male volunteers in particular.
  • What Experience Camp needs to move into Texas and more areas in the USA.


“[At Experience Camps,] we always come back to the ‘why.’” — Sara Deren [0:16:06]

“Every person’s grief is individual to them.” — Sara Deren [0:26:03]

“There isn’t enough general education out there [for] any adult that works with kids. We want that experience, that knowledge, and that awareness to exist everywhere [grieving] kids are. — Sara Deren [0:39:38]

“Not every grieving kid needs therapy!” — Sara Deren [0:40:01]

“We spend a lot of time listening and being there to be exquisite witnesses to [the children’s] stories and holding space for them so that it lightens their load.” — Sara Deren [0:48:47]

“Tell your stories. Ask the questions. Check in on the people you know who are grieving even if it’s been a really long time.” — Sara Deren [0:52:50]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

John’s Fundraiser for Experience Camps

Experience Camps

Experience Camps on LinkedIn

Experience Camps on Instagram

Experience Camps on Facebook

Experience Camps on TikTok

Experience Camps on Twitter

TikTok Video

Sara Deren on LinkedIn

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