BLISS # 2 Beyond Sadness

2 Apr

“Children can overcome their parents’ cancer. It’s not something that will cause them pain forever,” says, Kaori Osawa, a social worker at Tokyo Kyosai Hospital.  She is the director of “Hope Tree,” a NPO organization helping cancer survivors and their children.

Her passion for her work comes from her personal experiences: She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and a few years later her husband committed suicide. In the interview she talks openly about how she survived difficult times in her life and what she has learned through the process. She also shares her thoughts on how to help children cope with their parents illnesses. Here is the summary:

  • When a parent is diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to talk to children openly and honestly about it.
  • How to talk to children about cancer and death depends on the child’s age and developmental stage.
  • Even though adults sometimes try to hide the truth hoping to protect children, they’re very observant and sense something is going on. By not telling them the truth, you may increase their sense of fear and anxiety.
  • Parents need to create a safe environment where children feel comfortable about asking questions, which is more important than having all the answers.
  • After her husband committed suicide, she went through a period of shock and grief. She attended support groups for families who lost their loved ones from suicide, read many books on the subject, and took some time off work.
  • The tragedy was painful but also a transformative experience for Kaori. “I feel like a different person,” she says.

Through Hope Tree, Kaori provides not only support for cancer survivors and their children but also education for healthcare professionals so that they can better help their patients. She recently published a book about helping children whose parents have cancer.

I sense that her belief in her clients comes directly from her personal struggles and challenges in life. She has survived it all, so she knows other can, too.

You can listen to my podcast here or on iTunes.

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