After the trauma of losing a close family member to terror, many bereaved children feel that people no longer see them. The pain they feel is often concealed so deeply that most people in their lives no longer connect to who they really are anymore.
To fit in, the children present themselves in a way that fits society’s expectations but they deeply crave recognition of their inner selves that many people miss.
This year’s theme at OneFamily’s Chanukah camp was “Seeing and Being Seen” to help the children open up about how others see them and what they want others to see.
“We want to give each child at camp the feeling that we really do see them, who they are, what they are going through at this time in their lives,” said Ofir Elgrably, head of OneFamily’s Youth Division.
“Children who have undergone the types of tragedies these children have often feel that no one really sees them at all,” he added.
The theme came up repeatedly during the three days of camp. During one activity, children in the younger boy’s division were shown pictures of superheroes from popular movies – each with a special power and a special weakness – and were asked to choose the one they thought expressed how others see them.
At the ceremonial banquet held on the last night of camp, children stood up in front of the whole camp and shared their stories, focusing on a time in their lives they felt they were truly seen for who they are.
One boy spoke about how he feels he lives with a split personality. “Sometimes it seems like there are two of me in the world. One who everyone knows and another who hides,” he said. He spoke about a teacher at this school who made an effort to find the part of him that was usually hidden, and how much of a relief it was to know that he did not need to hide the parts of himself that were most important.
Another girl spoke about the night her family was attacked in a road shooting. When the terrorists opened fire on the family’s car, her parents were killed. Her mother, she remembers, in a final act of love, threw herself over the two children in the back seat to cover them from the bullets streaming at them.
At that moment, she said, she felt she received a final hug before her mother died.