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Carrie and Debbie: "They would never guess the turmoil I felt inside."

Carrie was 10 when her father died. A few months after that, she and her mother, Debbie, attended the Caring Place. Several years later, when Carrie was 13, she and her mother spoke about their experiences at the Caring Place after the death.

"Mom, You Can't Go To Work!"

Carrie: It was a day I wasn't home. It was a Sunday, and I wasn’t home that day. My dad was very sick for months. He was in the hospital for the whole month of December. And then came March, and I was with my friend out at a birthday party. And he died.

It was very sad for me because I wasn't home and I felt like I wanted to be there. I was very sad, and I was very angry at everyone. At God and my Mom, my dad, everyone, because I really wanted to be there when he died.

Debbie: It was incredible, having to tell Carrie that her father died. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Dealing with my own grief, and then having this little girl not believing it, not accepting it, was the absolute hardest thing I have ever experienced.

At the funeral, Carrie didn't express any grief. She was there to support me, acted like a little adult.

Carrie: For the next five months I continued to function as if nothing happened. I tried to block my father's death out of my mind. I believed that one day he would return to our life and it would return to normal. Anyone who saw me probably thought I was doing very well. They would never guess the turmoil I felt inside of me. All I could think of was what would happen to me if my mother died. I am an only child and I feared I would become an orphan if anything happened to my mom.

Debbie: As the months went on, it really hit her smack in the face. At that point she was glued to me. She wanted me constantly in her sight. She didn't even want me to go to work. She had panic attacks if I was leaving, afraid I would not come back.

I remember episodes six months after her father died where Carrie would be up all night crying, "I want my dad! I need to have my dad!"

I had to kneel down in front of her and take her by the arms and say, "Carrie, your dad's not coming back." She said she wanted our life to get back to normal, to get back to our three-family, as she called it. And I told her, "It's not going to happen. This is our normal now. This is what we have to learn to live with." It wasn't easy, going through those times.

Carrie: People think kids don't grieve. But I think it hurts even more when you're younger. Because I only got to spend ten years with my dad and now I have the whole rest of my life without him. Older people knew him for his whole life. It's just very hard to think that they’re gone forever and you will never see them again until you die.

You feel weird when your friends ask what happened. Because you don't know what to say to them, and you don't know if they're going to make fun of you or say things that could hurt your feelings.

At the Caring Place, I finally felt there was someone to talk with, someone who understood how I felt. The environment of the Caring Place was safe. If I wanted to talk and share my feelings I could, but I didn't have to. Some days were worse than others and I just felt like saying nothing.

At the Caring Place you can cry whenever you want and it doesn't matter. You don't feel uncomfortable; there are a lot of people who can cry here, and you can tell anyone anything. My mom also attended sessions with other parents at the same time and I think this support truly helped her. In fact, we have developed some lasting friendships.

Debbie: I firmly believe that the Highmark Caring Place has really helped us heal.