Rebuilding our lives after terrible loss
One of the hardest moments in Nikia Augustus's life was watching her young sons grapple with the death of their father.
Kian and Kaya were 10 and 16 years old respectively, when Randall Ian Thompson died because of complications from diabetes in 2012.
Their world was turned upside down.
“Watching my children go through the pain and having to watch them cry and get mad was the hardest part for me,” Ms Augustus said. “There were times when they wouldn't say anything at all.
“It's very difficult watching your children go through that. I couldn't even tell them I understood because I still have both of my parents.”
They leaned on their faith and family support to get them through. The programmes at Family Centre were another huge help, according to the 40-year-old.
Kian got involved with the centre's rugby programmes and its Youth Leadership Academy initiative two years ago.
Family Centre also stepped in after he started acting out in school.
“Kian had an incident at school a while back. He got to thinking of all that was taking place and it was basically grief that he was dealing with,” Ms Augustus said.
“He was trying to hold everything in and ended up punching a window and got into trouble, of course. He ended up opening up to his year advisor and that's when we decided to start the counselling sessions at Family Centre.”
The teenager is now in a much better place.
“After I lost my dad I started to get angry really fast and didn't know how to cope with it and would let it all come out at once,” the 13-year-old explained. “My counsellor taught me how to control my anger and gave me more skills to cope.
“There are different emotions you can go through like depression, anger, denial or blaming and now I know if one of those comes up what I have to do to handle it.”
Family Centre started offering early intervention services to children dealing with family-based problems and other emotional challenges in 1996.
The charity marks its 25th anniversary this year. It will celebrate the milestone with a fundraising beach bash on September 25 and a telethon on November 18.
Ms Augustus said one of the benefits of the counselling was how it strengthened the lines of communication between her and her son.
It helped the family cope with four deaths this year, including her sons' grandfather.
Through one of his therapy sessions, Kian got to create a memory box which included music his dad liked and a letter he wrote to him.
“It's helping to keep my son focused, involved and engaged by showing him his talents,” Ms Augustus said.
“[The counsellors] really listen to him as a young man growing up without a father in his life and give him extra support. They also have their doors open 24 hours a day and he has a phone number he can call if ever he needs to talk.”
Ms Augustus also makes it a point to honour Mr Thompson on holidays and birthdays.
She described him as “a cool dad” who would regularly take his sons out for rides on the jet ski and crack jokes with them.
“He was just an awesome dad,” she told The Royal Gazette. “I try to acknowledge him in everything. My feeling is no matter what the situation is between you and the father of your children — whether you're together or not — you have to be unified for the sake of the children.
“They were always our common goal.”
Her advice to any parent dealing with a similar loss is to surround your children with other positive male role models.
It's also important for parents to get themselves therapy so they can be strong for their kids, she said.
“And make sure you look out for changes in your children's attitude or behaviour. There were times when the boys didn't want to go to school or study, so I had to be on top of them to get things done.
“I also got more involved with their activities and what they were doing. If they had a rugby game or extracurricular, I'd be there; whenever I would show up Kian would be so excited. I'd also drive by the school from time to time, just show up unannounced and sit in the classroom to see what they are engaging in and how they are acting. Obviously they're on their best behaviour when mom is there.
“But it's so important to get involved. I also joined the PTA. I've been the treasurer at Dellwood for two years.”
Kaya is studying software engineering at New England Institute of Technology; Kian starts high school next month.
•For more information on Family Centre or its upcoming 25th anniversary events, visit www.tfc.bm.