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Friday, August 27, 2010

Helping Children Deal With the Loss of a Parent

Most parents are single not by choice. When any form of separation, such as deployment, death, or divorce occurs, parents become enmeshed in their own emotional upheaval. And in the midst of their grief, parents sometimes forget that their children are also grieving. Parents might not realize the depths of sadness children feel at the loss of the other parent.

When my granddaughter realized that my great-granddaughter would be missing her daddy, Sarah, the wife of a U.S. Marine, bought Ayla a "Daddy Doll."

Because I was so impressed with the Daddy Doll, I wrote an article about it, Hug A Hero Dolls for Kids Who Miss Mommy or Daddy. Shortly after posting it, the Executive Director of Hug A Hero, Lisa Berg, contacted me. And while she was contacting me, a fellow Associated Content contributor, Judy Kaelin (click her name to read her articles) asked me if Hug A Hero was accepting donations.

I contacted Lisa, who wrote: "Yes, we are definitely accepting donations! Matter of fact, we have a waiting list of almost 500 children in need of dolls. To support one child, it is only $25. That places a doll into the arms of a child in need. Our waiting list consists of families whose loved one is deployed or about to deploy. Thankfully we do still have the means to support our fallen heroes families. To donate, they can either go to our website at www.operationhugahero.org or send a check to the address listed at the footer of our site."

My granddaughter told me that "as corny as it sounds, Ayla's Hug a Hero doll really helps Ayla feel close to her daddy."  And I, author of this blog, thought, if these dolls help children of our military men and women, imagine how they might help children of divorce or children whose parents have died.

Because even though they began as Daddy Dolls, these dolls also help children who are missing mommies, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, or anyone else the child loves. How comforting to have some daily reminder that Mommy or Daddy (or whoever they lost) still loves them!

In cases of divorce, most loving custodial parents understand that children still love the noncustodial parent. One of these dolls, made in the image of the other parent, could help your child feel close to the noncustodial parent in that parent's absence.

Here's another thought – why not give your children a doll with your likeness, too? Watching them play with Mommy and Daddy dolls together could teach you a lot about how your children view your relationship and how they are handling the loss.

If you would like to purchase a doll for yourself, or if you would like to donate to Hug A Hero, please visit Operation Hug a Hero.  (Daddy Dolls now offers Campus Cuddles too.)

I would like to make a suggestion to Operation Hug a Hero: Why not create "Me Dolls" too – dolls in the likeness of the child, to raise more funds for children of "fallen heroes"?

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