I wasn’t even there. I was at camp, my happy place, her happy place. Walking to the dining hall for breakfast trying not to scratch the itchy mosquito bites from the night before. The smell of the fatal green eggs with the side of greasy potatoes was what filled the air as we approached our destination after our twenty minute walk. I was enjoying my life as a twelve year old, laughing and smiling with my best friends. We sat down to sing the wonderful opening prayers until my heart dropped. I could overhear my unit head and camp director say my name and just then they called me over. I was able to see the confused looks on my friends’ faces as I was taken away, I was not baffled, and I knew exactly what was happening. I got a bunch of flashbacks of my life, all the happy memories with my mom when she worked at camp and she was a camper. Until they broke the news, my mom died that morning. My favorite place on earth became my living nightmare. I thought I was going to faint, however I remained quiet and did not have any emotion. Just stopped and stared hoping I would snap out of it and wake up. I never woke up…
The moment every child dreads during their life is to be told that your parent has passed away. People ask many questions such as are you okay, how are you feeling, what changes did you undergo, but the main theme to all those questions leads to one, how are you mentally? Based on a study conducted by Yvonne Stikkebroek she discovers in her longitudinal study of a sample size of 7076 participants that there is a strong correlation between mental illness and the death of a parent before the child age of sixteen years old from realizing 541 participants have a mental illness due to the death of a parent as an adolescent. Being a teenager needing to deal with issues that are not typical to experience causes them to become closed and unwilling to talk about their feelings which is one reason for mental illnesses to develop according to the Cancer Care research. Children who need to deal with the unfortunate scenarios where a parent has passed away are most likely to have psychological issues in their future.
When I had my interview with Corrie Sirota, I discovered that there are different kinds of losses. If a child is closer to the parent who died it obviously will be very painful, however if the child isn’t close to the parent who passed then it could lead to other development issues. They could never have the good relationship because they are no longer here. There are several losses, not just the loss of a parent but secondary losses as well. I thought that was interesting because I never thought of it in that way. It is different dependent on gender, relationship, and temperament of the child. Support is necessary. She allowed me to realize the possibilities of grief and to allow people to know that they are allowed to laugh.
That reminded me of a situation that occurred at camp the past summer. Now I am a counsellor so I learn more about the campers’ lives in an emotional level. One evening, there was a program where the campers would write to their parents at home, without noticing one of my campers mother’s past away. I decided to approach this eight year old girl and I tried to open myself up to make her feel better. The one thing that I will always remember from this conversation as I told her that I don’t have a mom either she responded by saying “How are you so happy?”; I realized I am talking to an eight year old which is when they should not be worrying about anything however she feels that due to this event in her life she can no longer be happy.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the constant fear and reliving the situation of a terrifying event. Knowing a parent has passed, you are feeling powerless and in danger for what could occur from this situation, that is what it means to have PTSD according to Anthony from my PTSD forum. I remember waking up one morning having an amazing time with my friends at summer camp to in a couple milliseconds becoming this unique teenager and being judged and bullied for losing my mother. You get a feeling that you never felt before, it’s an excruciating pain no one could express as your soul is pushing against your body trying to escape. I felt absolutely paralyzed, no movement, no sound came from me; I stood frozen while I was forced to live without my best friend and comfort blanket and there was nothing I was able to change what happened. I didn’t know I had PTSD until I started to get bullied for having no mom, people in high school would make up rumors of how she passed and it made me feel that I was in jeopardy and once again feel helpless.
I live in fear every day by having flashback to spending days and nights in the hospital, iodine smell, the syringes for the needles, the sound of the color codes on the intercom, seeing nurses and doctors run around during emergencies and especially the elevator that lead right to the palliative care sliding doors. Angela Nickerson created a study examining the after effects of children after they undergo the death of a parent and the results appeared to be psychological and mental disorders were presented such as PTSD and depression. It is more common to develop a disorder if the child was younger at the time of the event.
After suffering the death of a parent, people could be impacted by developing a mental illness such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The grief process could impact people in different ways although for cases that involve PTSD and if that is the case psychotherapeutic and psychiatric help should be looked upon. As someone who experienced the loss of a parent, I feel that children who losses a parent as a young age will need to grow up faster. My sister and I now need to deal with PTSD, so I have a practical knowledge of what the outcomes could be.
What is my vision of possible results of children who lost a parent for their future? Well to answer that question I feel that it could have many possibilities. I ran a bereavement group at my high school for students whose parents had passed away. I learnt so much and noticed differences of each student, as well as siblings within the group. The first session we all described how the death occurred, many being illnesses than others that were unexpected. One that I will always remember is this boy in the group explaining how he, his mom and his aunt went to go see a movie at Guzzo Theatre in D.D.O., when he was just four years old. They walked out of the theatre and just then his life changed, his mom got shot and killed instantly. He is now a bright student who is very careful at everything he does. According to Pynoos, this case should have resulted to PTSD because he was witnessing the death however he got depression and felt that he needed to mature faster to help his father.
From experience people grieve in different ways. My sister used art and paintings to release stress. I played music to allow myself to forget about the bad and I played songs that reminded me of my mother. Unfortunately my boyfriends family needed to go through the death of their mother as well, he is the oldest (19 years old) he was 16 when his mom passed away he used sports and exercise to let loose as well as therapy sessions. He has two younger sisters one who is 16 (14 at the time) and another sister who is 11 (she was 8 at the time). All three of them went to Corrie Sirota the grieving councillor that I interviewed. I never felt that talking to people helped me grieve but helping others allowed me to feel better.
The death in the family could trigger many emotions. There are different coping methods of how to deal with this awful situation. People say with time things get better but honestly it depends on the person and their support along the way. Having someone taken away from you is the hardest thing to deal with in our lives. I needed to deal with my mom dying at a young age but that was in the past the next thing is to focus in the future and deal with everyday obstacles. Finding a happy place, mine is being camp; doing things you love, mine is playing music; and being there for others in need. I am still a teenager, I need to still grow and even if my mom is not there following and teaching me what to do, I am not alone, it is important to laugh and know you could be happy.
AMA and Archives Journals. “Sudden Death Of A Parent May Pose Mental Health Risks For Children, Surviving Caregivers.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080505162849.htm>.
Anthony. “What Is Traumatic Enough For Ptsd?” My PTSD Forum. 23 Dec. 2009. Web. 7 Mar. 2016. <https://www.myptsd.com/c/threads/what-is-traumatic-enough-for-ptsd.13846>.
Axelrod, Julie. “The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief.” Psych Central. Web. 7 Mar. 2016. <http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief/>.
Dietrich, David R. “Psychological health of young adults who experienced early parent death: MMPI trends.” Journal of clinical psychology 40.4 (1984): 901-908.
Dowdney, Linda. “Annotation: Childhood Bereavement Following Parental Death.”Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 41.7 (2000): 819-830. Print.
Kuntz, Barbara. “Exploring the Grief of Adolescents After the Death of a Parent.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 4.3 (1991). Print.
“Loss of Parent, Teenager, Cancer | CancerCare.” CancerCare. Web. 7 Mar. 2016. <http://www.cancercare.org/publications/66-helping_teenagers_who_have_lost_a_parent>
Nickerson, Angela. “The Lifelong Effects For A Child After The Death Of A Parent.”GoodTherapy.org Therapy Blog. 24 Oct. 2011. Web. 7 Mar. 2016. <http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/parent-death-during-childhood/>.
Sirota, Corrie. Someone Died… Now What? CreateSpace Independent Platform, 2015. Print.
Stikkelbroek, Yvonne, P Prinzie, Graaf R. de, Have M. Ten, and P Cuijpers. “Parental Death During Childhood and Psychopathology in Adulthood.” Psychiatry Research. 198.3 (2012): 516-20. Print.