Opinion: Culture of Isolation Leaves Grievers at a Loss

Filed under: Opinions


Losing a parent or sibling is perhaps the most traumatic experience a child can have, and new research shows that more Americans than previously thought cope with the death of a close loved one during childhood.

A study released by Comfort Zone Camp, a nonprofit group that provides free bereavement camps for children, shows that one out of every seven adults suffered the loss of a parent or sibling before the age of 20. Another staggering fact: For every child diagnosed with cancer this year, 35 children will lose a parent, brother or sister.

While the numbers are upsetting enough, even more disturbing is the fact that more than half of parents with young children who lost a spouse say their friends stopped talking to them or including them in social activities. Kids are a lot better at this than the grown-ups: Bereft teens ages 13 to 19 say their friends help them cope with their grief.
Sadly, these statistics don't surprise me at all. Death is scary and grief makes people uncomfortable, and the current culture of isolation makes it very easy to close the door on the tragedies suffered by our friends and neighbors. More and more, we live our lives in front of a screen, sometimes at the expense of people who are suffering right next door.

Attending funerals and offering words of condolence are the easy things to do. But how many of us drop by for coffee after the machinery of death has ground to a halt? It isn't because we don't want to -- more than 80 percent of the general population surveyed by Comfort Zone Camp said they wish they'd done more to comfort a grieving friend.

I believe we want to reach out to one another, but we've forgotten how. Gone are the days of running across the side yard to borrow a cup of sugar or hanging out on the front stoop to gossip. Instead, we hole up inside with the Internet and our mobile phones, and find it easier to offer our sympathies to strangers on a laptop screen than to the flesh-and-blood people right in front of us.

However, the staggering number of bereft children and their parents is a wake-up call. It's time to stop turning our backs on those left behind when all the flowers have wilted and the funeral rites are complete. We need to find our way back to the time when we opened our doors -- and our hearts -- to those who are in pain.

Related: Death of a Child - How Life Goes On

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.