NORTH ATTLEBORO — By the time cancer was discovered in Michael Thompson’s father, it was too late.
He died just a few weeks later, but he never told Michael, 15, what was going on.
The sudden loss has left Michael feeling sad, abandoned, confused and, at times, angry.
The Fall River teen said he gets angry at his father and at God for taking him.
Michael’s dad died in May and Michael said he feels better occasionally, and being around friends and family helps.
“I feel better, more at peace. I still have a lot of anger though,” he said, adding it doesn’t help that his brother in the military is shipping out to Japan.
“My brother is a big loss,” he said.
But, one thing that helped ease the pain, at least temporarily, was attending Camp Braveheart in North Attleboro on Thursday and Friday.
HopeHealth, a nonprofit, runs a series of the camps in Rhode Island for children who have lost a love one.
This is the first year it has expanded into Massachusetts, setting up shop on the campgrounds of the Hockomock YMCA on Elmwood Avenue.
Director Sarah Cordeiro, a former camper herself, said the free camp offers children activities designed to help them deal with their feelings.
They do the typical camp activities such as a rope course and sports, but also “mindfulness” exercises, therapeutic art and gardening.
One activity the younger children were engaging in Friday was constructing “comfort boxes.”
Children decorate the boxes and fill them with objects that have a special meaning to them.
Fayth Spero, 12, of Fall River, who lost her grandfather, said she put into her box a tiny teddy bear, a rubber ducky, and a ball of putty she called a figit ball that she squeezes when feeling anxious.
Instructor Melissa Nespolo said art can help children work through their feelings and express things they may not want to say out loud. For instance, they might want to draw a picture of the person who died.
And if the children are willing, they are given the opportunity to talk about what happened to them. Michael spoke to a gathering of fellow campers after Thursday’s activities were done.
He said he tried to explain that he feels lonely even when there are other people around.
He compared it to a line in the Billy Joel song “Piano Man”: “If they’re sharing a drink called loneliness, it’s better than drinking alone.”