CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006
The death of a parent forever changes your life. Lynne Hughes, the founder of Comfort Zone Camp for grieving youth, shares her personal story of loss. Her mother died when she was nine years old, and her father died only three years later. With honesty, she relates her feelings of disbelief, loneliness and the realization that "I would never be the person I was before." Hughes describes the emotional and physical manifestations of her grief during her struggle to try to "act as if nothing had happened."
According to Hughes' personal philosophy, "every time you tell your story, you heal a little bit." She stresses that there are no right or wrong ways to handle grief. Quotes from interviews with 30 former Comfort Zone campers provide insight and reflection on a variety of difficult topics. Hughes introduces each of the speakers by prefacing their statements with their first name and the age when they lost their parent. The circumstances around the deaths, such as illness, suicide and World Trade Centre attack, are also briefly noted. These many voices contribute to the book's conversational tone. Hughes mediates the dialogue as the teens discuss the overwhelming feelings of helplessness, the changes in family dynamics, and whether or not there are differences in grieving a long term illness versus a sudden death.
Coping strategies like crying, writing in a journal, and taking part in counselling are suggested. Chapters also offer advice on how to deal with awkward social situations, such as how to broach the subject of parents with new acquaintances, and the uncomfortable reaction you may receive. The participants share "What we wish people had told us about grief" as well as "Good things that have come out of loss." As Jesse says, "It never gets better, just vaguely easier," but the youth also offer reassurance in the healing process.
The authentic stories of loss will resonate with readers. One participant, Mary, expresses the common thread that echoes throughout the book: "I guess mainly I wish that someone had let me know that I wasn't alone." This book encourages frank discussion and is a worthy addition to school and public library resource collections.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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