Helping Those Who Lose Loved Ones

Psychiatrist Dr Kos (left) with Aziza Eshani, one of the counselors she trained to provide support to bereaved families
Psychiatrist Dr Kos (left) with Aziza Eshani, one of the counselors she trained to provide support to bereaved families
Now, help is at hand for thousands of Afghans traumatized by the conflict in their country
After two of her children were killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul, a distraught Rihilla tried to commit suicide. She tried to hang herself; took a drug overdose; slit her wrists. Her vigilant family thwarted each suicide attempt but Rihilla’s distress remained acute. “I kept wondering how much pain my sons felt (when they died),” she says, “once, I put my hand in the oven and another time in the fire, to feel how they suffered.”
It is an anguished reference to the way her sons died. Qais, 13, and Edris, 11, were on their way home from school when a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into a bus. Rihilla’s boys and four other Afghans were killed; eight were injured. And Rihilla joined the ranks of the thousands of Afghans traumatized each year because of the conflict in their country.
But Rihilla was more fortunate than many. She and the other families affected by the attack received psychological support from USAID’s Afghan Civilian Assistance Program (ACAP). From 2007, the Program has provided training and material support to traumatized Afghan families, but last year, it started to offer psychological support as well.
Counseling helped Rihilla come to terms with her loss. She is one of 36 bereaved families helped by the Program so far.
For example, the Program helped the families of seven women who died in an air strike that targeted insurgents in Laghman province. Several children lost their mothers and counselors worked with their school to provide emotional support. Saiyed, a farmer who lost two daughters in the strike, said the counseling was invaluable. “It helped us understand our grief and we realized that we have to carry on despite it. (We realized) that if the adults couldn’t cope then the children would not be able to face the challenges ahead.”
The Program is to be expanded to another 400 families in 12 provinces.

Last updated: January 16, 2015

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