Loss, Grief & Scouting
by MaryAnn Gardner
I am writing
this feature having just returned to my work here on the NetCompass after the death of my
father-in-law. Observing the young people in my family, and receiving expressions of
sympathy from our friends in Scouting has prompted me to build a Compass point about Loss
Dad was a Boy Scout
in the 1930's and shared stories and songs with my sons of his experiences at a National
Jamboree. Like most families of the 1950's and 1960's, his wife handled the Cub Scout Dens
for his five sons. He became more involved when the oldest, my husband, became a Boy
Scout. One of the memories shared at his passing was of a campout with torrents of rain
and mudslides and Dad's big station wagon (necessary to haul around six kids) being the
only one that could drive down into the camp to haul out Scouts and equipment. Later he
served as Explorer Advisor for my husband's Explorer Post. My sons recalled his driving
from Southern Kansas to Northern Indiana just to attend a Pack meeting one March because
his grandson had asked him. They also recalled how proud he was to be present each time
one of his grandsons received the Eagle Scout badge and agreed that he will, no doubt, be
there in spirit when the next one gets to that mountain top, probably this Spring.
grandchildren, who range in age from 27 to 8 years of age, convinced me that a section on
Loss and Grief is needed in the SCOUTER Medical Issues Library. Loss touches each Scouting
unit in some way, at some time. Most of the time it is a grandparent of one of the Scouts,
but sometimes it is the parent of a Scout, a Scout leader, or even a young Scout who dies.
When tragedy strikes, Scout Leaders and Scout parents must help each other and the Scouts
in their charge to work through the situation.
At Dad's funeral, the
priest suggested to the grandchildren that they take pencil and paper and imagine that
they had five minutes to talk to their grandfather. He suggested they write down what they
would say and tuck it into his pocket. Three of the grandchildren wrote a poem about
grandpa from their point of view and read it at the service. The 17 year old and the 8
year old brought a flower for him. These and many other gestures were encouraged by
parents and aunts and uncles. These gestures helped the children handle their grief by
providing an action they could take.
I am no expert on grief. I
only know what I, personally, feel and what I observed over the past few days. However,
there are many web sites that deal with these issues. They provide many excellent
suggestions for all of us, adults, children, and teenagers that can help us deal with
life's most crushing, heart-breaking times.
If you are reading this,
you, your Scouting unit, or one of your Scouts possibly have just experienced a loss.
Please accept my condolences and those of all the staff here at SCOUTER. Hopefully, you
will find something to help you shoulder the pain as you browse the links provided. Please
note that three of the links are specific to Scouting - the Scouter's Memorial, Erik's Page, and A Song for Nini. If
you have lost a young Scout, consider the information about the Spirit of the Eagle Award
If you would like to tell
us about the life of your Scout or Scouter, please contact us by email. We care.
May-June 1998 explained the BSA Spirit of the Eagle Award as an honorary, posthumous
recognition for a registered youth member who has lost his or her life in an accident or
The award is bestowed by
the National Court of Honor as part of the celebration of the young person's life and
recognizes the joy, happiness, and life-fulfilling experiences Scouting made in that life.
It is also intended to help heal and comfort the youth member's family, loved ones, and
friends with the loss. A recipient must have been a registered youth member under 21 years
of age at the time of death. BSA Application No. 9