My name is Peyton and I am 14 years old. My story is sad but not unique. My father died suddenly when I was 9 years old and my entire world was turned upside down. I went from being a happy, popular child excelling in school, music, and sports, to a withdrawn, deeply sad child who could no longer focus on school or playing. Instead, I spent all my energy on trying to not cry and on trying to fit in with kids that I now felt I had nothing in common with. My home life went from that of an average child to constant stress, lack of stability and what seemed to be and unending stream of tears. I lost my dad that dreadful day, but I also lost the mom that I had known all my life. She was destroyed by his death and struggled to handle her own grief and all the new responsibilities of now being solely responsible for 2 small kids. She tried her best, but in the early days following his death, she simply could not be the support system my brother and I needed to deal with our grief.
I tried to turn to my friends but they alienated me because they didn’t know how to handle what I was going through. I also tried to turn to my teachers, but they were not trained in how to deal with children who have lost a parent and were no help at all in my grief journey. My grades dropped and I no longer found joy in any aspect of my life. My brother, who was 5 and in his first year of school, was being bullied for not having a dad. He was so little and vulnerable and turned to me for help but I was only 9 and didn’t know what to do. I cannot adequately describe how much my world changed that dreadful day and how incredibly distraught and overwhelmed I was during those months following.
My mother knew how difficult my dad’s death was on us and put my brother and me into counseling within the first week. We saw a child psychologist for 5 months but our work with him did not help us much. Fortunately, my mother found an organization called Adam’s Place that helped me realize that I was not the only child who has gone through a profound loss. The three of us started attending meetings 6 weeks after he died. We went there every other week for 2 years (my brother for 3). The healing that comes from being able to share your sorrows with your peers and knowing that you have the support of other kids who understand your pain is immense. I learned coping skills and felt “normal” again by going to Adam’s Place. Having the support of my peers at Adam’s Place helped me tremendously and gave me the courage to eventually rejoin life.
After benefiting so much from Adam’s Place, I knew that I had to give back to my community (the community of kids who were grieving) and 3 years ago, I went through the facilitator training to become their first Youth Volunteer Facilitator. I have since been working with the 5-8 year olds every other Tuesday.