One Grateful Family | Center for Victims of Torture

One Grateful Family

Our Syrian family walked into the CVT Jordan's office one day full of concern about their three children.  They told us their children were terrified of just about everything – noise from planes, celebrations and fireworks, even people.   The children attended school, but spent the rest of their time indoors, in their one-room home, refusing to go outside and play with other children.

The parents were consumed by their own anxiety about their children.  Life for this newly arrived refugee family in Jordan was made even more difficult because they had no money for food, rent or basic life necessities.  One meal a day had to suffice. 

When we first saw the father, he looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Both parents struggled with anxiety, depression and sleep difficulties.  Their stories about life in Syria during the war seemed similar to the stories of other refugees – fear of being killed at all times, soldiers coming into the house and searching for some supposed hidden sons that did not exist.  Their house was eventually targeted and destroyed.  After fleeing Syria, a torturous escape into Jordan and into the Syrian refugee camp awaited them.  This family left a comfortable life in Syria, but they had no choice.  If they wanted to protect their lives, they had to escape and leave everything they owned behind them.  

When the family came to CVT, the parents only asked for help for their children.  However, it was plain to see they, too, needed help.  CVT provided couple counseling for parents to address their personal trauma and their overwhelming concern for their children.   CVT also provided individual counseling for the children, to help support them with their own fears and worries.

During the first few sessions, many changes were noticed in both the parents and the children.  The children told CVT psychosocial counselors they felt much more relaxed at home, and started to play outside with neighborhood children.  Their reported fear and anxiety was slowly going away.  When their parents heard the laughter of their children return, and seeing their new-found happiness, joy filled the parents’ hearts. 

During therapy, CVT’s counselors engaged the children in expressive therapy such as art and poetry.  Both the parents and the children reported that coming to CVT was the highlight of their week.  After a few more sessions, CVT counselors saw considerable improvement in the parents as well.   Their depression and anxiety lifted, and they began to feel renewed hope for the future.  As the sessions with the CVT counselors came to an end, the children were referred to a physiotherapy children’s group for much needed exercise and integration with peers.  The children continued to bloom enjoying the group thoroughly.

The family also began working with CVT’s social worker to obtain food coupons and other much needed necessities.

As therapy for the parents also began to wind down, the father asked if he could have a session by himself.  He shared a deeply moving story that he had not been able to share with anyone, even his wife.  He told of a story of soldiers entered his home and searched through his house.  He remembered how terrorized the family felt.  The father was then instructed to step outside the home, leaving his wife and children inside.

The government soldiers began discussing ways of killing.  Once the method was chosen, fate intervened and his life was spared.   Back with his family, he was unable to share his story, only able to shake uncontrollably.  From that day on, he experienced continuous nightmares and an unbearable heaviness in his chest.  

He said the only reason he could share this story was because, for the first time since he left Syria, he felt valued as a person.  He felt the CVT’s counselors truly cared about his story, and created a safe place for him to grieve.  As a result, he began to regain control of his life.  He was very thankful to CVT for the care he and his family received.

CVT will continue to provide counseling to this father, as these wounds take time to heal.  The rest of his family will be cared for in follow up sessions.

This family managed to get the assistance they needed.  However, CVT counselors support many more families daily, bringing family members and neighbors in for help.  CVT staff have witnessed a great deal of suffering in survivors, but sometimes just a few sessions can bring about miracles and the shadow of depression can be lifted.  There is so much more to do, but seeing the smiles on the face of the men, women and children is worth the effort.

This story was written by Laura Takacs and Adrienne Carter, psychotherapist/trainers with CVT Jordan. Laura and Adrienne work with a team of psychotherapists, psychosocial counselors, physiotherapists, social workers and outreach staff and volunteers that provides care to refugees in Zarqa, home to large numbers of Syrian refugees.


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