Helping kids to overcome grief

Melinda lost her father as a young teen. As a well known sports identity in Australia she had both the public grief for her father to overcome, but also the far more personal side of dealing with the loss of her dad as a young person.

She shares her story......and tips on how to help children faced with the loss of a parent or close family member. This is her personal story and her own personal recommendations. 

Motherinc believes every family and every child's journey related to the overwhelming loss experienced with the death of a parent, requires the involvement of trained counsellors who know how to deal with grief and young children. We also believe hearing another's story of how they made it through the worst time in their life - can help others deal with such a tragedy - to the best of their ability.

Q&A with writer Lindy Lee

Q. Lindy Lee is a multi-award winning documentary maker, now living in Los Angeles. Her fascinating new project provides an interesting perspective on how teenagers deal with grief and issues of identity. Tell us about ‘Facing Jessy’.  

A.  I originally wrote a young adult novel about my teenage years as a racing car driver and have recently turned it into a screenplay. It’s now in development with a renowned Australian Director. We hope the novel will also be published soon. ‘Facing Jessy’ is a story of courage…about how our trauma’s affect the decisions we make about our future.  It’s also about identity and finding the strength to become who we are meant to be, against all odds.

Q. Tell us about the effect your father’s death had on you at the time. How old were you and how did you cope?

A. I was 17 when my father was killed in a car racing accident. Dad and I were inseparable, so his death shocked me to the core. My grief was so deep that I remember lying comatose for weeks on the couch, unable to move. Eventually, my Mum and best friend did a kind of intervention and basically told me that I hadn't died…and that I must choose to live. I now realize it was a pivotal moment. I got up off the couch and went back to school. There were many other low points after that day, but I knew that I had to keep deciding to live.

Q. What do you wish was handled differently about your father’s death?

A. I remember being at the hospital the day Dad died, and an older lady (a family friend) told me that I must not cry and that I had to be strong for Mum. I think she said the same thing to Mum…that she must be strong for me, and also not cry. So we both grieved behind the closed doors of our bedrooms. Mum and Dad had been very happily married for 27 years. So Mum’s loss, must have been as great as my own. I have no doubt that lady thought she was giving excellent advice…but really it was not helpful. Unexpressed grief can really hold a child back in terms of their development.

Q. What would you like parents to know about how a child feels about a parent dying?

A. From my perspective, my father’s death created a firm end to my childhood. I had always believed that Dad was invincible. I thought he could overcome anything. But to see him with a brain injury, that beautiful mind unable to affect the outcome, I realized my own mortality. It’s a heavy weight to carry at such a young age. From that point on, I questioned everything. I lost my childish innocence and exuberance. I stopped thinking that my future was bright and that I could achieve anything I dreamed…which was the way I’d been raised.