Profound Loss Too Early

F acing a parent’s death is not easy at any age, but most assume they will not lose a parent until well into adulthood. Sadly, Thornton Academy senior Abby Ouellette and Deering High School senior Priscilla Maccario had their time with their fathers unexpectedly cut short. According to a survey by Comfort Zone Camp, the nation’s’ largest nonprofit provider of childhood bereavement camps, their research found that one in seven people will lose a parent before the age of twenty.

Thornton senior, Abigail Ouellette, at the site of her father’s grave.

Thornton senior, Abigail Ouellette, at the site of her father’s grave.

In 2008, Ouellette, at the age of 11, received the news that her father had passed away of cancer.

“Even though I knew his death was coming, I was still shocked. When I found out, I was surprised and knew it must’ve been true,  but I couldn’t accept it. I refused to believe he could be gone when the day before he was stable. For days, somehow I still expected him to walk through the door,” Ouellette said.

Ouellette has a unique perspective on her father’s death. She believes that everything happens for a reason and even though she had a limited time with her father, it was supposed to happen.

“He never gave up. He helped people until the very end. I remember him coming home one time after helping one of his friends, and puking up blood,” Ouellette said.

Her loss and memory of his fortitude inspired her to be the best person that she can be. Ouellette like her father is always there to help out her friends. She is one of the leaders of Action Team. Action Team was funded by Major League Baseball players to help train the next generation of volunteers. The club works with many different organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Hazleton House, and they also babysit for Young School PTO.

Ouellette’s time with her father was limited, but one of her favorite things that she would do with her father was going into work with him. She often taught herself how to help him with his work while visiting.

“I was an eight year old. I actually taught him how to do spreadsheets. When I went home and told my mom, she died of laughter,” she said.

Her favorite time to go work with her father was on the weekends.

“Weekends at my dad’s work were the best,” she laughed. Then confessed, “He used to bring me out for McDonald’s and donuts. Those were banned at my house.”

Another time while she was at work with her father, they made robots out of boxes covered in bubble wrap with spools of wire around them.

These memories help comfort her, but the shock and grief of losing a parent so young takes a long time to process.

Deering senior, Priscilla Maccario (far left) with her friends during their summer program to study cancer research at Michigan State University.

Deering senior, Priscilla Maccario (far left) with her friends during their summer program to study cancer research at Michigan State University.

It was during Thanksgiving break in 2013, Maccario’s freshmen year of high school, when she lost her dad. Her father was also struggling with cancer, but his health decreased very quickly. Her family brought him into the hospital to have him checked out and ended up having to leave without him.

She said the loss was extremely hard on her brother, mother, and herself. “My mother was sorrowful and grew lonely because her children were at school most of the time.” But Maccario said, “The loss unified our already strong, familial bond.”

Maccario and her father were very close. One of her favorite activities that she used to do with her father was cooking.

“This one time I made a chef hat out of paper, an apron and kneaded dough next to him as he prepared an apple pie,” she said.

Apple pie was their speciality but they also loved making dumplings together and anything with potatoes.

Neither senior girl ever imagined having to graduate without one of their parents, but they are bravely pushing forward.

Maccario and Ouellette both have plans on attending four-year colleges. Ouellette wants to major in nursing and Maccario wants to major in premed. They were both inspired by their fathers.

Helping a friend who has lost a parent is not an easy thing to do. It is hard finding the right words to use to comfort them.

Guidance counselor, Abigail More said,  “I wouldn’t necessarily give advice because anyone who loses a parent is going to be in their own place with that. I think one thing a friend could do is helping them to accept any emotion that they are feeling. I think sometimes when a teenager loses a parent, they think they have to feel sad whereas there are many other emotions such guilt and anger. Allowing themselves to feel those things is important and reminding them that they don’t have to feel one way can be helpful.  I guess if I did give advice it would be when they are ready to seek some support, The Center of Grieving Children in Portland is an amazing organization”.

Maccario said if she had the chance to help another teen suffering the loss of a parent, she would say,  “I would say that it is okay to mourn, but it is more important to focus on your future and not dwell on the past. Nothing can be changed about what happened.”

Ouellette said, “My advice to other seniors or juniors who are in a similar situations is to stay strong and be proud of who you’ve grown to be.”

Ouellette and Maccario will graduate, June 5th 2016, with their families there supporting them.

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