As our country reaches the unenviable milestone of 200,000 deaths from the pandemic, the New York Times this week printed pictures and brief profiles of some who perished. In the same issue, the paper recounted the many ways those deaths have affected survivors, especially family members of all ages. Those stories resonate deeply in all of us, for we cannot help but imagine how we would cope with such a loss. Often unreported in such accounts, however, is the impact of a family member’s death on their children or siblings. My mother died at a young age, when I was abroad and my only sibling, a sister, was 16. Through the telescope of time, and many conversations with my sister, I have gained a deeper understanding of how she coped with that loss, especially at her age and with no real support.
Recently I learned a startling statistic: In New Hampshire, 1 in 13 children will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18. Perhaps this is not news to you as you may well know of such a case or, perhaps even, have suffered such a loss.
Some have observed that contemporary American society generally tries to keep death at a distance. We treasure youthfulness, seek to extend our healthy lives, but then, when death occurs and the details are kindly and efficiently undertaken by others, we are left standing at memorial receptions struggling to find words to console the family and close friends of the deceased.
How often, in the midst of such gatherings, is there a small child, or perhaps a teen, standing apart, deep in their own grief? Adults will “get on with their lives,” we may think; theirs are many ways of coping. But what of the children?
Friends of Aine is the only organization in New Hampshire whose sole mission is to support those grieving children, teens and families who have experienced a significant death. This small nonprofit, through a network of trained volunteer facilitators, leads activities in small groups to create an opportunity for our grieving population to share their personal experiences, explore topics related to grief, learn coping strategies, and help in the all-too-human task of mourning.
Friends of Aine are seeking volunteers. Perhaps at this time, when we all are finding ways to help others, Friends of Aine might be an option. Visit friendsofaine.com
Author: Stephen Reno