Writing a book helped Crofton boy cope with death

January 18, 1994|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Staff Writer

For a year, Brandon Cook would not talk about his father's death with anyone but his twin brother, Barry. He was afraid it would upset his mother and worried that his classmates at Crofton Elementary School would tease him.

But after six weeks of group therapy in a children's bereavement program at the Hospice of the Chesapeake in Millersville, Brandon, 12, wrote a book about his experiences for a school project.

His mother, Gail Cook of Odenton, enrolled both boys in the program last January because they still would not talk about the death of their father, Barry Cook Sr., of a heart attack at the age of 38 a year earlier.

"The book helped me to acknowledge and get over my father's death. It helped to write about it," said Brandon, now a sixth-grader at Crofton Middle School. "Before the hospice program, I couldn't talk about his death."

He wrote the book, titled "The Hospice," for a class assignment last year at Crofton Elementary. Brandon, a tall, brown-eyed boy with brown hair and ruddy cheeks who enjoys baseball, fishing and raising animals, said it helped him grow up a little.

In the five-page, hard-back book, which was put together at school, he praises the hospice and the KidSCENE (Sharing, Coping, Encouragement and Enrichment) program. He explains through words and illustrations how the hospice helped him deal with his father's death.

Brandon tells how the social workers, Harry Congdon and Georgia Rittmeyer, helped him; how the seven other children, including Barry, supported him; and the "neat things" they did, such as creating a memory box to keep mementos about the deceased person. His teacher at school even asked him to read his book aloud to the class.

"The hospice was the only thing I knew of to write about," Brandon

said. "I didn't think it would give me this much attention."

The hospice is a 15-year-old, nonprofit organization that helps people with terminal illnesses and offers support for their relatives or for the relatives of those who have died.

Although the book was a school assignment, Mrs. Cook said a greater good will come from it. "A lot of people don't know what the hospice is, and the book will help," she said.

She said she took her sons to counselors and the family doctor after their father died, but she "didn't feel like they were helping."

The boys were reluctant to try the hospice program at first, Mrs. Cook said, but she is grateful they did. "It made me feel good that he could express his feelings. It was so sincere," she said.

"We were angry when Dad died. It is much easier to discuss it now," Barry said. "I think the book is great."

Mr. Congdon said the point of the program is to give the children permission to grieve. "We encourage them to draw and write about their feelings. The three biggest emotions are anger, guilt and fear," he said.

"Barry and Brandon are cool kids. They learned to normalize their grief instead of minimizing it," Mr. Congdon said. "The book is evidence that it helps to write about it."

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