Stories Of Resilience

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Charly

Charly had a happy childhood which he likes to remember. Born in Montreal, he moved at the age of 4 to the Outaouais region to follow his parents, both of whom became employees of the federal public administration. Charly remembers being very much loved by his father and mother and he was very happy with the arrival of his little sister Isabelle. He was especially happy to now live less than 400 meters away from his maternal grandparents, whom he adored. Charly was a healthy child who liked to play with his friends and classmates and spent time cooking, sometimes with his father or mother, sometimes with grandma or grandpa. He also enjoyed playing chess with grandpa and taking piano lessons with him. At the age of 12, on his way home from school, Charly found his mother lying on the living room floor. Knowing that his father was at work, he called his grandparents, who rushed in, but without success. Later that day, a doctor would discover that his mother had died from a fall due to a severe weakness related to chemotherapy for her breast cancer that Charly hadn't known about until then.
The very next day, Charly's father started drinking. A bit later, he was put on sick leave because of a severe depression. He also started being verbally abusive with Charly and his sister, neglecting them by spending his days outside playing at the Casino and drinking. Two years later, the family home was foreclosed by the bank and Charly and his sister had to move in with their grandparents. Although they had set up a space for him in the basement, Charly never felt the privacy he had in his room again. But what hurt him the most was to watch the sadness and grief of his little sister and grandparents who lost their only daughter every day.
At the age of 14, Charly's mind was completely off school. All he wanted was to grow up, get a job and escape the sadness, sorrow and pain in the house. His grandfather no longer played the piano and chess, his grandmother no longer baked pastries, his little sister got bad grades, his father was now in a home for severe depression and spoke to no one. It was at this time that Charly met Ms. Baker, his English teacher. She was surprised to see Charly's lack of self-confidence even though he spoke and wrote well. After one last botched assignment, she decided to meet Charly to discuss with him. In front of Ms. Baker's benevolence, Charly began to cry and to open up to her. It was the first time he talked to someone about all he felt since the death of his mother. That is how Ms. Baker took the first steps with the school psychologist to help Charly get access services. She also took the time to inform the school administration and discuss it with the other teachers. Charly started seeing the psychologist once a week and took the same steps for his sister. The psychologist also contacted Charly and Isabelle's grandparents and advised them to seek help from their local community service center (CLSC).
In the months following this first discussion with Ms. Baker, Charly regained his joy. Years later, he still says: "When I met Ms. Baker, I found life again". For the first time since Charly’s father’s hospitalization, Charly and his sister decided to go see their father. This visit was a form of shock for him. With the help of doctors and psychologists and weekly visits from his children, which also offered social support, he was able to take charge of his life. Charly and Isabelle were happy to find a loving, laughing father who enjoys spending time with his family. His father was able to return to work, rent an apartment where Charly and Isabelle were happy to move in, while visiting their grandparents every day and spending time with them.
Now 23 years old, Charly works as a computer engineer after having completed his bachelor's degree. He is continuing his master's studies at the same time and is volunteering with an association that works with young cancer patients. Charly continues to see Ms. Baker who welcomes him in her home and represents a mother figure for him. According to Ms. Baker, Charly is part of the family. She explains: "Every five years, I meet a student in whose eyes I see a spark that is being extinguished. Charly is one of those students. But by looking at their spark, we understand that it doesn't take much to rekindle it. It is also our role as teachers to rekindle the flame and give hope to our students." Today, Charly is proud to share his story, that of a resilience that was built with the kindness of Ms. Baker.

Regarding resilience, Dr. Cénat writes: "It is co-constructed. Children facing adversity often need a caring figure to hold out a hand to them in the face of adversity. It is all they need to initiate a process of resilience and create beauty out of chaos.".

Paul and Stacey's stories will be added soon!

Funded by

Vulnerability, Trauma, Resilience & Culture Laboratory
School of Psychology
Faculty of Social Sciences
University of Ottawa

136 Jean-Jacques Lussier, Ottawa, ON,
Canada, K1N 6N5
613-562-5800 ext. 4459
vtrac@uOttawa.ca