By Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for the Hope & Healing Place
Linda was eight years old when one of her brothers was diagnosed with cancer. He died when she was ten. That was back in the day when children under 12 were not allowed to visit in some hospitals. She was often left with friends while the adults in her family went to the hospital in a neighboring city to be with Ricky. When he died, they had no idea that Linda was dealing with feelings of guilt and rejection over her brother’s death. And, her confusion about life deepened over unresolved grief related to her adoption. Those feelings intensified over the years when another brother died, followed by the deaths of her grandparents, then her dad. Long before that last loss, Linda was acting out and acting up, finally running away from home. She was in and out of relationships, had children and abandoned them, worked as a dancer in nightclubs, and ran with motorcycle gangs. Now in her fifties, Linda can look back over a lifetime filled with challenges and disappointments. If we could interview her, I’m confident that she would point to her early losses as primary contributing factors in her life of turmoil.
Linda did not have a Hope & Healing Place to attend when she was growing up. She didn’t have caring group leaders to listen to her and help her process her grief. Linda didn’t have a sympathetic peer group to help her talk out, act out, and play out her questions, frustrations, and feelings of guilt. The losses she experienced caused a negative ripple effect in her life that continues to this day.
By contrast, during my decade of work with a grief center similar to Hope & Healing Place, I observed the positive ripple effect in the lives of adolescents and children who experienced the loving support of caring, trained adults. The Kids’ Place, which we began in response to the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, offered safe and supportive groups and activities which helped the grievers have someone to confide in – and gave them an understanding peer group which helped normalize their grief experiences. As a result, we saw some of the kids return to the program to serve as group facilitators, helping others benefit from the kind of loving environment which had meant so much to them. Others have become productive leaders in society and strong leaders of their own families. Yes, a center like the Hope & Healing Place creates a positive ripple effect which will benefit generations to come!
By the way, I know the story of Linda first hand. You see, Linda is my adopted sister.
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