To campers at Point of Hope Camp, a weekend program in Darlington, Md., a parachute is a different kind of safety device. Holding its outer edge waist-high, a circle of campers set the cloth billowing, creating space underneath for children and adults to scurry through -- and providing a group activity meant to build a sense of security among participants grieving the loss of a loved one.

The idea behind such activities is to help participants learn to trust one other enough to talk about sensitive issues tied to the death of a family member or friend. Discussion groups are organized by age, said Kathy Persson, a director of Capital Hospice, the camp's sponsor. The camp, which is often attended by families, is free and open to anyone who has experienced a loss.

For those uncomfortable discussing their thoughts, grief counselors facilitate quieter activities: Children create kites with illustrations of comforting emotions on one side and feelings they'd like to get rid of on the other; teens build a "wall of emotions" featuring words describing feelings; and adults practice yoga.

A main goal of the camp is bringing "people together with similar losses, so they won't feel alone," said Persson.

The Point of Hope program will run Friday, July 29, through Sunday, July 31. To register by July 15, call 703-538-2044 or see

-- Samantha Sordyl

Last year, camper Nicholas Davis of Woodbridge, whose father had died, hung out with counselor Andrew Levine.