Dear Teachers in Iran,

As I was informed that my brief letter drew your attention and that it was useful for you, I would like to write to you a little more. I am certainly sure that a number of experts from all over the world will come to your place soon and support you much more effective and powerful way than us. For instance, I heard that an organization for supporting orphans of Kobe earthquake, from which I received assistance, started the preparation for your support. You will soon work in cooperation with their systematic and expert activities, but until they arrive, I hope to share the knowledge, skills and my experience to deal with the children who are in fear and despair, and shiver from loneliness and long endless night in cold winter.
Well, let me start from the 5th point. I would say 5th, since I am writing this letter as a continuation to the letter I wrote on Jan. 1st.
5. The children who lost their family recover from their pains, basically through the same process. If you understand this mechanism, you can respond to actions which are often incomprehensive and behaviors of the children victims smoothly .
a. Since the children lost their family unexpectedly, the children are thrown into panic without exception. In most cases, they cry a lot. It is essential to weep for them. Then, as I told you last time, adults are to be beside them, sympathize with them. and will be the children's companion for crying free from anxiety.
Those who do not cry should severely be concerned for. Otherwise later on they might blame themselves, in the future, for having been heartless at their parents' death. It was the case with the Hanshin earthquake and I heard some children (now adolescents) still suffer from not having wept at that time. Adults cannot tell those children to cry, so all they can do is to be aware that definitely the time will come for those children who lost their parents, necessarily cry. When the time comes, with love and wisdom, please accept them and admit that it is the time and is just natural to cry for the children.
b. Facing the loss of family, the more precious the family is, the more the children place blame others for the death, saying "the rescue crew misjudged", "medical treatment was too late" or "my religion is contradictory". They blame others. At the same time, children think it is not others but themselves to be blamed and their family perished because they were wrong. "If I had done that, they could have averted.", "I live at the cost of my family's life." The earthquake is a natural disaster and not a murder, and neither others, nor themselves to be blamed, but children blame them and themselves in order to pursue the responsibility. This is wrong from adults' view, but the young victims necessarily go through this process. At that point, it is wise and advisable not to speak to them rationally or logically (e.g. "No. This is a natural disaster and it's no one's fault." ). Of course it does not mean that the adults should agree with the children, saying like "Yes, it was your fault" or "Yes, they were wrong". Instead, just show the understanding and sympathy for them, saying, "I understand how you feel." or "Oh, I see. You feel that way."
c. In time, the children become aware that "no one is to be blamed", but then, they ask to themselves a profound question, "Why such a sad thing happened to me?" . As the children see that many people were saved and live happily, they continuously ask themselves "why me?" without blaming anyone. It is really hard to answer this question. A rash and careless answer would invite the mistrust of the children. It would be better to keep it on mind that religion and culture affect on this matter, too. Therefore, it is not always the adults' fault if adults cannot answer the question clearly. It would be better to avoid giving facile answers but rather to respond honestly and behave on an equality with children, saying "I cannot answer. I cannot understand either"
d. Several steps follow and the children begin to recover when they pour out with their own words about the agony which has been kept deep inside of themselves. However, the process up to here is very tough, and only those who have been companions of the children during this long process by being close to them, sharing their anxieties, accepting them, are allowed to hear to the children' words. Their words may be faltered or given with emotional outburst. Sometimes it will be a scene they do not want to be seen nor listened to. We cannot tell at what time they will get ready to express themselves. It can be in one month, in one year or in ten years. Nobody knows, nor the adult, nor the children themselves. So, patience is a most important and requisite quality for the adults in order to accept and help the children to recover.
Even though there is difference among individuals, the point is that every child go through these steps. Some steps are passed in a short time but not a step is passed by. In time being, a number of experts from all over the world will arrive and start support activities. They will show you more detailed and divided steps and put them into practice. What they will bring you is the achievements of the recent studies and practices. The difference between the case of Bam and that of Hanshin (9 years ago) is that now ICT technology is far more developed. It is true that the large scale support activities require time to begin after the crisis, but at least, the know-how through experience and accumulated expertise will be sent to those in need in no time. I sincerely hope that my experience will be of some use at your country before the arrival of the experts.

Yours sincerely
Hiroshige Kihara
(Hiroshige Kihara, Translation : Ikumi Ozawa)



   since Jan.1, 2004 

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