Jonathon's Closet

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Grieving Children

The quote I mentioned yesterday is that of Dr. Marylene Cloitre, an expert in child trauma who became counselor to hundreds of children affected by 9/11.

Even in the best of communities, even in situations where the schools/neighbors/friends rally around the family at the time of the loss, it is still a fact: We, as a society, are ill-prepared to help grieving children.

And even in those places where those wonderful people exist, those wonderful people who step forward when the unthinkable happens and do what they can to support the grieving family at the time of the loss, very few people think beyond a few weeks or a few months. Very few people understand what these kids are still trying to live with each and every day – for the rest of their lives.

Director of Camp 9/11 Angela Martinez shares, “Five years after 9/11, the kids are still dealing with a lot of issues." She was compelled to create a camp where children could come together with others who have had similar life experiences, let their guards down and learn to trust again.

David Abraham, executive vice president and general manager of TLC, states "It is an eye-opening perspective on family, loss …”. He is correct. In watching this presentation, you will witness the way the children reacted to the reality that their loved ones were never going to return home again, and how this fact affects their daily lives.

Some of the children profiled in CAMP 9/11: CHILDREN OF HOPE include:

* a sixteen-year-old boy who lost his father and now feels that must take care of his mother because he is the man of the house, and feels that he is the only father his 5 year old brother will ever know. Since he was 11 years old, he has been trying to be a FATHER to his little brother.

* a fourteen-year-old whose grades dropped dramatically 3 years after the event. She stated that she was unable to concentrate, “that day just kept repeating in my head”. Not immediately after – that is something most people would understand. 3 years later, that day just kept repeating in her head.

Most people have no idea of what the struggles of a family are in the years following the loss of a parent. If you know of a child who has lost a parent, do you know:

If this child wakes screaming in the middle of the night?
If the parent wakes in the middle of the night feeling the child’s fingers on her throat, as he checks for a pulse?
If this child suffers from flashbacks of “that day”?
If this child was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder?

Do you know that when that 9 year old child was presented with an award for being the league high-scorer in soccer and yelled out "do ya see this?" while waving his trophy excitedly in the air, he wasn't calling out to the crowd of soccer players and parents, he was talking to his father. Do you know that he then cried on the way home because Dad wasn't there to "see this"?

No, you saw a proud kid hanging out with all of his soccer buddies and smiling when they took the team picture.

Do you know that when taking that beautiful gifted 10 year old child to Music Camp, the mother drove for 1 ½ hours with the child stretching out of his seat belt wrapping his arms around her neck almost hysterical, screaming and sobbing, “What if you die while I’m gone?”

No, you saw him after his mother calmed him and reassured him and secured permission from the camp director for him to call home every night at 8 o’clock, just to say goodnight. You saw him smiling and giggling with all the other children, because after all, that’s what he wants to be, just like all the other children, and he just blended in.

Do you know that when attending 4-H Camp, this 11 year old child misbehaved in an attempt to get sent home because he felt a responsibility to take care of his mother?

No, you saw a child who was behaving poorly and thought what a shame it was that no one ever taught him better.

Do you know that when packing for Boy Scout Camp, this 12 year old child tore all of his trophies, plaques, medals, and awards from the wall and threw them across the room because he was so angry that his Dad wasn’t there to help him pack?

No, you saw a responsible young man show up at camp, help younger campers with their gear, and laugh when he won the contest for having the most freckles! Again, he just blended in.

That’s the thing – even the experts DON’T KNOW what life becomes for these children. This is an invisible wound. My kid looks like all the other kids (well, except for that red hair and those freckles – but that is a totally different thing!). Life is different for a child who is not just imagining that something terrible MIGHT happen, but a child who KNOWS that terrible things DO happen.

For these children, “happily ever after” only exists in fairy tales.


  • What I see: a mom who understands and respects her kid's legitimate needs, and honors them instead of ignoring them or shaming him for them.

    By Anonymous Becki, at 5:10 PM  

  • what a powerful post! thank you.

    By Blogger Mrs. Darling, at 2:06 PM  

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