Family Separation is Always Traumatic. When it Happens After Losing a Parent to COVID, It Feels Unbearable.

Photograph by Sara Naomi Lewkowicz

Natasha Beltran lost her father Julian to COVID at just 10 years old. Her mother Maxine has been her rock, but the loss they both felt was unrelenting. Maxine was urged to get therapy for Natasha by her school, but didn’t know if she could afford it or where to turn. The delay set off an investigation and a painful journey that threatened to separate the family. While eventually they were allowed to remain together, they lived with the unbearable fear of being forced apart for months.

Thankfully, Natasha and Maxine were introduced to The Children’s Village and functional family therapist Yolanda Elcock. To the Beltrans, Miss Yolanda has been much more than a therapist. She visits the family’s apartment once a week just to talk and get to know the family. She and Natasha practice coping skills like mindfulness and turning negatives into positives. Sometimes they work on challenges that Natasha is experiencing, like bullying at school or on social media.

Yolanda doesn’t just work with Natasha, she also partners with the adults in her life. She is in regular contact with Natasha’s school on day-to-day challenges, and she helps coordinate between the school and Natasha’s outside therapist, who she sees now in addition to Yolanda. “Now, everyone is working together. Everyone is on board” says Maxine.

Unfortunately, Natasha’s story is not unique. The Children’s Village frequently partners with families who are experiencing loss and trauma. The death of a parent – especially during the pandemic – can be particularly difficult. But any separation from family, especially to young children, is a major trauma that must be processed and continually worked on. Keeping children with people who love them unconditionally is critical to their wellbeing, and that should be the goal whenever possible.

Today, Natasha and Maxine are both looking ahead. Natasha plans to speak with other groups of children who have lost a parent. The two are eager to share their story if it helps other kids – or if it helps adults respond better to the needs of grieving children.

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