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Loss of a Parent
Q: I have a 6-1/2-year-old boy and a 4-1/2-year-old boy. I lost my husband a year ago last June to a horrible battle with cancer. My older son is having a terrible time. He has gained 15 pounds, has a terrible time sleeping, feels that there is always a problem with someone at school, "hates his life", never wants to be home. We moved two weeks after my husband died and I have recently bought a home I feel very comfortable in. We have been in therapy since last year. I am very tired. I do not know how to ease his pain. He is in so much pain.
A: Both your kids bore witness to their beloved father's horrible death from cancer. Your older boy's responses are all certainly part of his bereavement and his being traumatized by this event. He may even feel more lost because of your move shortly after your husband's death.
If you have been in therapy for this long and he is still this distressed and depressed on a daily basis (young kids can be clinically depressed, although we usually don't assume they can be), maybe you should consider consulting with a specialist in children's bereavement. Alan Wolfelt, author of "Healing the Bereaved Child", is Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado. You may want to read his book and also give him a call at his center to ask for bereavement specialists' names in your area. He probably could also provide you with some phone consultation regarding your particular situation. Earl Grollman's "Talking About Death: A Dialogue Between Parent and Child" is also a fine resource.
I know that you ache for you son and that you must feel overwhelmed at not being able to make his pain go away. Don't forget that you need to take care of yourself as well. Get the help and support that you need. Please consider my suggestions and keep me posted.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.