Last year, in the midst of coronavirus lockdowns and in a time where the whole world seemed to be in pain, 15-year-old Jennifer* faced her own particular heartbreaking tragedy. Her father fell ill with throat cancer and passed away.
Jennifer’s family came to Lebanon when she was younger to escape the conflict in Syria. They considered themselves some of the lucky ones. Her father managed to provide for them by taking a job as a taxi driver and they felt proud that they didn’t need to ask for aid. Now things are different for them.
Life in Lebanon is difficult for a Syrian widow and her two children who are effectively living as refugees. As the oldest son of the family, Jennifer’s younger brother must shoulder the responsibility of supporting them. He’s only 12.
Between missing her father desperately and facing the uncertainty that has come with the absence of her protector and provider, it’s not surprising that Jennifer was struggling with a deep sense of grief and hopelessness. On top of that, since her father’s death, her friends had started to avoid her, which she says she found very confusing and hurtful. Fortunately, she hasn’t been alone in this time.
Jennifer was able to find some support from Tearfund’s local partner – a youth centre where she had been attending after-school tutoring classes for the year or so before her father died. When the staff heard of Jennifer’s sad news, they were able to reach out to her and remind her that she is not alone.
One of the staff members bought groceries for the family and another kept in touch with Jennifer (and her mother and siblings) through video calls during the lockdown. This helped the family to process their grief and find ways to face the very challenging situation they have found themselves in.
Jennifer also attends a youth group run by our partner, where she has found a place to be encouraged and to share her struggles. Through this, Jennifer says that she feels determined to hold on to hope and live her life as best she can even though she has lost her father.
‘Living in another safe country can be a blessing,’ says Karen Soerensen, who leads Tearfund’s work in Lebanon. ‘But it also can be exhausting as the sense of loss of your country remains. I can’t imagine how much harder it is for young people like Jennifer and her siblings to deal with losing their sense of security, not only because of conflict in their country, but also losing their father – their support and safe place.’
Thank you that you are full of compassion. Thank you that you hear our grief and you understand the pain of our losses. We remember that Jesus, too, wept. We lift up all who are grieving in this difficult time. We pray for your comfort for them – that they will know your presence and your peace. We ask you to be near to Jennifer and her family and all those who are facing similar situations. Please provide for them and restore hope to them.
*Name changed to protect identity