Editor’s Note: This teen author shares her story about her experience losing a parent to show the challenges of dealing with grief and the importance of receiving support from family, friends, teachers and bereavement professionals.
National Child Grief Awareness Day is November 18, 2021. For info, see https://www.childrensgriefawarenessday.org/cgad2/index.shtml.
This past year was one huge challenge I have overcome. I have had to face one of the hardest challenges a person can face, losing a parent. A couple of weeks after I lost my dad, I had my Bat-Mitzvah, and two months later, the pandemic hit.
My father was a very bright, funny and kindhearted man. When he became sick I assumed he would be OK because he was so strong. As things escalated, I was very isolated from my family because they did not tell me any information about his health. As everyone around me was very open about their emotions, I was not. I felt like I had to be strong and be a support for others.
The day after Thanksgiving, he passed.
The week of the Shiva was hard because my sister and my mom received so many nice gifts such as collages and pictures. All I received was a stuffed animal. I wasn't upset that I didn't receive the physical objects they did, but as a 13-year-old, I was upset that people still saw me as a baby who wouldn't understand the meaning behind a gift that could have had more meaning. No one understood me or my feelings and it felt as though they just saw me as too young or not a part of the family. It almost felt as if others thought the loss of my dad didn't even faze me or that I didn't care, just because I wasn't present in the room for some of the Shiva. I felt very alone and neglected because people forgot that I was going through the same thing. To this day, I still feel isolated from my family when conversations about my dad or memories from the past come up.
Six weeks after I lost my dad, I had my Bat-Mitzvah. It was January 11, the day before my 13th birthday. Practicing for my Bat-Mitzvah was stressful and hard. Preparing for such an important event after the loss of my dad was very emotional. Having this big step without him there was also very hard.
It was such an important day that I had been waiting for for such a long time, but I felt my dad's presence and I could feel how proud he was of me. I remember throughout all my prayers and readings from the Torah, I would look over and see my sister laughing at me. This reminded me of my dad, because I know he would have laughed or made faces at me as well. He had a plan for when he gave his speech at the end of the service. He wanted to do it as a rap and include all these jokes and embarrassing stories from my life. We had laughed about it earlier that year when we were in Paris when he told me his ideas. In the end, I had all my friends and family in the audience, and I felt proud of my job on the bimah.
I had my Bat-Mitzvah just in time. Eight weeks later, the pandemic hit and we went into quarantine. I felt lucky that I had been able to celebrate my Bat-Mitzvah with my friends and family. I saw the disappointment many of my friends experienced having to cancel their events.
Quarantine was very hard for me. While being home all day, every day, I had too much time to think and grieve. It was difficult having that much free time, I felt overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings at times. To keep busy, my friends and I made a schedule of activities each day to entertain ourselves such as spa night, movie night and lots of FaceTime calls.
Quarantine did help me realize what is important to me: time with my family and friends. Once things started opening up, I learned to adjust to this new way of a more socially distant life.
Going through all these tragedies has taught me a lot about myself and what I value most. I personally think these situations have made me a lot stronger and helped me become the person I am today.
About the author
Olivia Schuller, now 14 and a freshman at Gann Academy in Waltham, wrote about losing her Dad in 2019 for her application essay. She lives in Lynn.
Care Dimensions offers several grief support groups for children, teens and the adults that care for them with family counseling and support through their grieving process. For information and resources on grief education and support for children, schools and communities, please visit www.CareDimensions.org/children or call 855-774-5100.
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