Facing The Issues: Grief And MourningJuly 1997 By Michael Durfee, M.D. Child Psychiatrist
Five year old Jennifer saw her infant brother, Mikey, beaten by her motherís boyfriend. They shared a bedroom and after the beating it was quiet until late morning when their mother entered and began to scream. Jennifer was left with her grandmother after the police left.
Weeks later the body had been buried with Mikeyís mother as the only witness. Almost no one spoke to Jennifer about Mikey except to reassure her that "everything will be O. K.". The child interview specialist at the county child abuse center only saw child sexual abuse victims
Jenniferís schoolteacher knows about the death but doesnít know how to find the caseworker or the grave and doesnít know if she should call the mother who used to visit Jennifer at school. The school staff talks about the case. Only the teacher talks to Jennifer who is generally withdrawn except for episodes of hitting herself.
No one speaks to the 12-year-old neighbor who used to baby-sit and hold Mikey for hours. A half sibling in another state is never told of the death. No one speaks to law enforcement or the fire department paramedic and hospital staff who tried to keep the battered infant alive. The cold blue infant body was eventually described as dead on arrival although hospital staff had continued intervention until a resident arrived to pronounce the baby officially dead.
Jenniferís mother and grandmother speak occasionally, mostly to argue about the motherís parenting and choice of men and the failure of the grandmother or other family members to help when Jenniferís mother had been beaten by her boyfriend.
Law enforcement and jail staff had spoken to the boyfriend as necessary, looking for a confession. The boyfriend told himself that he wanted to tell them how the baby crying made him mad and he didnít mean to kill the baby. The boyfriendís family told him to stay away so he moved in with a girlfriend with children who told him that she loved him and told herself that this time it would be different.